OPT: Flash Floods DREF Operation No. MDRPS003

Situation Report
Originally published


The International Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) is a source of un-earmarked money created by the International Federation in 1985 to ensure that immediate financial support is available for Red Cross and Red Crescent response to emergencies. The DREF is a vital part of the International Federation's disaster response system and increases the ability of National Societies to respond to disasters.

CHF 117,783 (USD 100,325 or EUR 78,500) has been allocated from the International Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the Palestine Red Crescent Society (Palestine RC) in delivering immediate assistance to some 2,423 beneficiaries. Unearmarked funds to repay DREF are encouraged.

Summary: The operation is planned to enable the Palestine RC to ensure initial humanitarian response to the most vulnerable among the flood victims in Gaza. The DREF support will focus on basic relief needs through the provision of relief items such as blankets, tarpaulins, hygiene kits, and first aid kits.

This operation is expected to be implemented over three months, and will therefore be completed by the beginning of February 2009; a Final Report will be made available three months after the end of the operation (by May 2009).

The situation

From the early afternoon of 27 October 2008 and the following 36 hours, torrential rains hit the Gaza Strip, causing heavy floods in huge parts of this densely populated and poor area. After summer-long drought, the ground was not able to absorb the huge mass of water, which washed away sand, dust, and garbage from streets and dumping places, merging with sewage from underground reservoirs, and filling the ground floors of the homes with mud, garbage, and contaminated dirty water. Among the worst hit areas was where the poorest of the poor people in the Gaza Strip were located, living in their simple shelters and poor houses. In the northern part of the Strip, dozens of houses were under water and mud. In the southern city of Khan Younis, where there is no functioning or very poor drainage and sewage systems, the dirty and contaminated water has found its way through streets, into homes, and everywhere. One of the sewage treatment plants in the north of the Gaza Strip is filled up to the brink of its banks, creating fears that these might burst, and sewage water completely bury residential areas, like what happened last year with another dam, bursting its banks, submerging a number of houses, and even drowning some people.

The Gaza Strip along the south-eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea is a flat landscape with the size of only 365 km², of which a broad area all along the border to Israel is inaccessible for the Palestinian people. On this tiny small land, more than 1.5 million Palestinians live, of whom more than 1 million are registered as refugees who for most of them live in camps. For more than a year, tight closure has been imposed on the Gaza Strip which has led to severe shortage of fuel, medicine, food, building materials, and all kind of commodities, even such as spare parts, maintenance equipment, and pumps for the sewage systems. This has created a general vulnerability to any smaller or bigger disaster, making it impossible for the municipalities, the authorities, and people to be prepared for and cope with the rainy season and this kind of extraordinary weather. Wherever there is an underground sewage reservoir, these were already filled up before the rainfall due to lack of sufficient pumping systems. With the Gaza Strip being under closure for years, the economy is close to complete collapse, and there are no means available in the municipalities or among the poor people to meet other demands than the most essential items for survival. Therefore this kind of weather has such dramatic and devastating impact on those being hit the worst.