• Children continued to face grave protection concerns across Palestine in 2018, including killing and maiming and interference with education. For example, since the ‘Great March of Return’ (GMR) demonstrations, which began on 30th March 2018 in Gaza, there were over 258 Palestinian fatalities and over 25,000 injuries, including over 4,300 children and over 2,000 women injured. More than 110 incidents of interference with education were documented.
• Over 283,000 children and women benefited in Gaza from health and nutrition services in hospitals, clinics and outreach teams.
• UNICEF with the MoH and partners improved postnatal home visiting (PNHV) services, and roughly over 6,636 new-born children and their mothers received quality postnatal care services.
• Approximately 15,000 most vulnerable people, living in remote communities in Area “C”, and those unconnected to a water network, benefited from the distribution of safe drinking water through trucking.
• UNICEF supported over 5,900 children and 178 teachers with protective presence on their way to and from schools in vulnerable areas of the West Bank during 2018.
• UNICEF and WFP are working to provide most vulnerable families in the Gaza Strip with blankets, clothing and hygiene kits. The joint initiative will reach at least 6,000 poorer families in early 2019 to cope with winter, following a sharp deterioration in the living conditions of many people living in Gaza.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs:
In 2018 a range of humanitarian factors have continued to impact children’s lives across Palestine. These factors included the Great March of Return and deepening poverty in Gaza, rights violations in East Jerusalem, Hebron and Area C, and the intra-Palestinian divide between the West Bank and Gaza. From the 30th of March 2018, when the “Great March of Return” (GMR) mass demonstrations along Israel’s fence with Gaza began, there have been high numbers of casualties including deaths following the use of excessive force by Israeli Forces given the use of live ammunition. By mid-December 2018, a total of 25,702 injuries and 239 deaths were reported among which 4,379 children were injured and 42 were killed. There were 2,056 women injured in the GMR, comprising 8% of total injures. In total 14 Israeli civilians were killed and at least 137 others were injured since the start of the GMR.
Provision of basic services in Gaza remains a key humanitarian concern, as families struggle to get by with one of the highest unemployment rates at 54% percent in the second quarter of 2018, disproportionally affecting youth (60 per cent) and women (65.2 percent). This situation compounds the widespread prevalence of poverty, reduced purchasing power and increasing people’s reliance on humanitarian aid with more than 80% of the population dependent on some form of assistance. Salaries of civil servants have, since April 2017, continued to be paid at a reduced rate. Children and families’ resilience capacity across the Gaza Strip continues to be eroded as needs have exhausted families’ coping mechanisms, which provided some form of relief that households have historically relied upon. An ongoing sense of hopelessness, insecurity, and lack of purchasing power is leading to school drop-outs, child marriage, and child labour. Gaza economy is in ‘free fall’ according to the World Bank, with unemployment reaching 54 percent in the second quarter of 2018, and over 70 percent of young people and 78 percent of women unemployed. Health services in Gaza have been under strain due to the blockade and the GMR.
In October the Central Drug Store in Gaza reported critical stock levels with 44 percent of drugs completely depleted, and an additional 47 percent of drugs with only one month of supply. The entire 2 million people in Gaza are affected directly or indirectly by the health consequences of the current crisis. The prolonged electricity cuts and the shortages of fuel to run generators heavily impacted the functionality of 16 primary health care facilities affecting more than 65,000 children under five who will lose their opportunity to benefit from preventive, curative promotive health services. Catering, cleaning, sterilization and laundry will be also affected by the fuel outage resulting in cancellation or postponement of hundreds of elective surgeries for children in Gaza. The situation is aggravated by the shortages of doctors as well as drugs and medical supplies and the increasing delays in the referral of patients to treatment outside Gaza, following delays in the processing of permits and financial commitment documents.
The rise in poverty in Gaza has also increased the vulnerabilities of children, pregnant and lactating women’s and nutrition risk.
A Nutrition Multisector Needs assessment indicated that a large proportion of the most vulnerable population in Gaza have sub-optimal food consumption scores. The assessment highlighted a deterioration of diet with less variety and meal-frequency, leading to deterioration of nutritional status of pregnant and lactating women. Although malnutrition levels remain below the emergency threshold, the deterioration will require continuous monitoring.
In the West Bank, children living in the old city of Hebron (H2), Area C and East Jerusalem are acutely in need of humanitarian assistance and protection due to movement restrictions, settler violence, and threats of demolitions. In East Jerusalem settlement tenders were announced after two years without tenders, and Israeli authorities have continued demolition of structures leading to heightened child vulnerability. The Bedouin Palestinian community of Khan Al Ahmar located between two Israeli settlements has been issued with 42 demolition orders threatening nearly every structure, including a school serving 170 children.
Humanitarian operational space has been shrinking for the effective delivery of assistance and protection to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Some of the obstacles include physical and administrative restrictions to the access and movement of personnel, especially national employees, restrictions on the delivery of materials needed for humanitarian projects, and limitations on the implementation of projects that involve building, expanding or rehabilitating infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and Area C of the West Bank.
Funding rates for humanitarian activities were relatively low, at the end of December 2018 the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) was only 46 percent funded. UNICEF’s appeal had a shortfall of 27%, but in light of continuous deterioration of the situation and rising needs, this had a considerable impact on our ability to reach vulnerable children.
During the year, UNICEF had to shift some of its plans – within the existing appeal - to respond to new emergencies such as the humanitarian consequences of the Great March of Return as well as the deepening crises in Gaza and as a result of insecurity and clashes in East Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank. Major donor cuts in funding to Palestine, including to UNRWA, have also jeopardized our planned achievements in many areas by further undermining the resilience of community and exposing more Palestinian children to poverty and protection violations.