This mid-year progress report covers the period 1 January through 30 June 2018 and is intended to provide an update on results achieved under the full range of indicators included in the 2018 Emergency Appeal (EA) for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). An annual report covering the whole of the year will be issued in early 2019.
During the first half of 2018, the political, economic and security situation remained extremely fragile across the Gaza Strip. With the land, air and sea blockade of Gaza entering its twelfth year, around 1.9 million people – about three-quarters of whom are Palestine refugees – remain isolated in a 365 square kilometre enclave. The residual psychosocial impact of the 2014 hostilities, compounded by socioeconomic factors associated with the blockade, political uncertainty and a chronic energy crisis, have had significant repercussions on the lives, resilience and coping mechanisms of Palestine refugees in Gaza. The unemployment rate across Gaza rose to 53.7 per cent in the second quarter of the year,1 remaining among the highest in the world. The reporting period was marked by the impact of violence following the start of the Great March of Return demonstrations on 30 March 2018, that have seen a massive number of casualties in particular among young Palestinians, exceeding the number of injuries sustained by Palestinians during the Gaza conflict of 2014. This has placed increased pressure on an already overstretched health system, which has been degraded by recurrent electricity outages, severe shortages of medical supplies and equipment, and a salary crisis affecting government employees.
Palestine refugees in the West Bank continue to experience difficult socioeconomic conditions and protection concerns that are often rooted in occupation-related policies and practices imposed by the Israeli authorities, including restricted access to land, services and markets, particularly for those living and/or owning land in Area C and in the ‘Seam Zone’ (areas between the Green Line and the Barrier). Many continue to experience high levels of food insecurity, with those living in camps being particularly affected. During the first half of 2018, the unemployment rate among Palestine refugees reached 19 per cent compared with 18.7 per cent for non-refugees. Palestinian communities, especially those in Area C, continued to face the threat of and to suffer demolitions, a key feature of a coercive environment affecting many communities in the West Bank. Bedouin communities remained particularly vulnerable to a number of protection threats, including the risk of forcible transfer of several communities living in the Jerusalem Periphery.
The UNRWA Response
During the reporting period in Gaza, with emergency appeal funds, UNRWA provided emergency food assistance to 908,834 Palestine refugees, essential learning materials for 271,900 children and additional learning support for 62,646 students underachieving in Arabic and mathematics.
By way of mitigating the psychosocial impacts associated with the impact of the situation in the Gaza Strip including recurrent hostilities and the blockade, individual counselling services were provided to 6,069 students, with an additional 5,840 benefiting from group interventions. A further 1,490 adults received individual counselling support through the Agency health facilities, while 29,348 parents received parents education sessions at UNRWA schools. The Agency Job Creation Programme (JCP) generated short-term work opportunities for 6,600 refugees, including 2,943 youth, and injecting US$ 4,734,197 in wage income into the Gaza economy. A total of 1,684 refugee families whose homes were rendered uninhabitable by the 2014 hostilities were provided with transitional shelter cash assistance (TSCA) during the first half of the year, while 5,596 were provided with winterization assistance. In addition, in cooperation with relevant water, sanitation and hygiene authorities, the Agency ensured functioning water, wastewater and waste management services. Finally, throughout the reporting period, UNRWA conducted 559 unannounced visits to all UNRWA installations in Gaza, with identified neutrality violations being immediately reported and addressed through appropriate channels.
Across the West Bank, 45,887 food-insecure refugees living outside camps benefited from electronic food vouchers during the first half of the year, while an additional 36,871 vulnerable Bedouin and herder communities received inkind food assistance. Further support was extended through short-term Cash-for-Work (CfW) opportunities inside refugee camps that provided cash subsidies to 3,939 food-insecure households. Six mobile health clinics (HCs) provided 47,646 medical consultations during 986 visits that targeted West Bank communities severely affected by access and movement restrictions. UNRWA also prioritized interventions to alleviate emotional distress through 311 psychosocial group activities that reached 5,760 individuals and 456 individual, group or family counselling sessions that served 1,397 beneficiaries.
Through its protection programme, the Agency continued to monitor, document, report and provide emergency assistance to those affected by demolitions and/or damage to their private property. During the reporting period, emergency cash assistance and internal and/or external referrals to specialized services were provided to Palestine refugee families affected by demolitions, settler violence and ISF operations. Finally, 222 out of 238 installations were inspected by Agency staff during the first half of the year. Neutrality violations were immediately reported and addressed.
Impact of Underfunding
UNRWA would like to acknowledge the continued and generous support from its many donors that has allowed the Agency to continue to provide emergency assistance to Gaza and the West Bank. For 2018, US$ 398 million is required to cover the cost of emergency interventions; however, as of 30 June 2018, only US$ 50,045,444 million, or 12.5 per cent of needs, had been pledged and received, leaving a funding shortfall of US$ 348,761,500.
A reduction of nearly US$100 million in forecasted income at the start of 2018 had major impacts on emergency operations in Gaza and the West Bank. Efforts to stabilize these fields in the first half of the year were possible through UN CERF funds and additional contributions and advances from other donors, supported by a global fundraising effort. The unprecedented funding shortfall faced by UNRWA since the beginning of the year has forced the Agency to take mitigating measures and implement changes on some of its emergency interventions. In Gaza, UNRWA is prioritizing the continued delivery of food assistance to nearly one million refugees. This requires the scaling back of other interventions, such as the community mental health and job creation programmes; protection functions will also be adapted to funding availability.
The impact of underfunding has been equally felt in the West Bank, where emergency food assistance could be provided only to 30 per cent of the planned caseload for the reporting period. The cash for work programme has been similarly affected, with delay and uncertainty in its implementation during the first half of the year. Due to the funding shortfall, a number of emergency interventions in the West Bank will also experience changes during the second half of the year. UNRWA will discontinue its Cash for Work activities inside camps, transitioning the most vulnerable to food vouchers.2 Community mental health and mobile health activities will also be discontinued, unless alternative partners can be provided. Food voucher activities and food assistance for the Bedouin communities will continue until the end of the year.
Emergency services provided by UNRWA constitute the minimum support necessary to meet the critical needs of Palestine refugees. While the Agency continued to implement its mandate in accordance with relevant General Assembly resolutions, the Palestine refugee community has been impacted by the measures taken in response to the financial crisis. The humanitarian problems faced by Palestine refugees today must be addressed as a matter of shared international responsibility, pending a just and lasting solution to the IsraeliPalestinian conflict, including the Palestine refugee question, in accordance with international law, including relevant General Assembly resolutions.