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Gaza. UNRWA Report on Situation in Gaza published today
29 UNRWA school buildings – every fifth building – continue to serve as collective centers for over 63,000 displaced. The number of displaced in UNRWA schools remains higher than the number of displaced sheltered during the peak of the hostilities from 27 December 2008 to 19 January 2009. The predicted maximum absorption capacity of UNRWA schools – 50,000 displaced for a short period of time – is the new normalcy. All government facilities sheltering the displaced are closed.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl delivered a speech in Cairo at the Foreign Ministers Arab League conference on Sunday, asking for USD 47 million in urgent support for Gaza. Funds are needed within the next four weeks to finance a comprehensive support package to Palestine refugees, which will include support to host families, rental subsidies, minor damage and repair assistance, and a reintegration package through vouchers which can be used to purchase non-food items from pre-selected vendors. Commissioner General Krähenbühl told the ministers that “there is a crying need for financial support now, today. Longer term reconstruction must be addressed but will depend on the outcome of negotiations on access for building materials”. He said that “with funds now, immediately, UNRWA can facilitate minor repairs like new doors and windows for hundreds of houses before the winter. With funds now we can give cash to thousands of homeless in order to rent temporary rooms, and to others to buy essentials to find again their feet.” Commissioner-General Krähenbühl concluded with a powerful appeal for freedom and justice for all Palestinians: “As I have stated repeatedly during the war, Palestinians are not statistics. They are men, women and children with hopes and expectations similar to those of people everywhere else in the world. Fundamentally, it is time for a change of paradigm in Gaza and in the West Bank. It is time to address the underlying causes of conflict and occupation and to provide freedom to move, to trade and to work. In the meantime, I urge you to renew and strengthen your support to UNRWA so that we can give these children and their families a decent life and the basis for a dignified future.”
Shelter repair and reconstruction of Palestine refugee homes is expected to cost USD 526 million according to preliminary estimates, but a final number can only be confirmed after the assessments. In coordination with the National Consensus Government and UNDP, UNRWA started shelter assessments on Sunday 7 September. UNRWA relief and construction personnel and engineers work simultaneously in all five governorates of the Gaza Strip and are expected to complete the shelter assessments within 60 to 90 days. During the 50 day war, it is estimated that some 60,000 homes were impacted. 40,000 of these homes are assumed to be inhabitable; requiring minor repairs with materials available on the local market, such as for example doors and windows. Of these 40,000 homes, and based on the proportion of the Palestine refugee population in Gaza, some 28,000 are likely to be Palestine refugee homes. Based on average costs for shelter repair from the 2008/09 and 2012 conflict, repair of these 28,000 refugee homes will cost the Agency USD 26 million. The remaining 20,000 of the 60,000 homes are expected to be either destroyed or having sustained major damage and are uninhabitable. 14,000 of the 20,000 homes are Palestine refugee homes, with an approximate cost of USD 500 million to repair and reconstruct. For the uninhabitable homes, it remains unclear how shelter construction is to start under the current access regime imposed by the Government of Israel, which does not allow construction material on the local market.
The emergency declaration remains in place and the UNRWA Operations Rooms in Gaza City and in the five governorates are fully functioning. Pending a political solution which addresses the causes of the conflict, UNRWA’s priority is to get regular programming back in service as quickly as possible. Emergency and early recovery programmes focus on the back to school initiative for 241,000 children studying in UNRWA schools, with school starting on 14 September. Recruitment of staff for collective center management is underway, which will become a stand-alone programme in UNRWA. Comprehensive assistance to those with damaged or uninhabitable homes and support to those in need who currently fall through all support networks are a further priority. UNRWA is looking into a scheme for determining vulnerability and need for food assistance in the community for those not currently receiving food assistance. The Proxy Means Test Formula, which is used by the Agency to determine eligibility to over 830,000 Palestinians currently receiving regular food aid through distribution centers, is unsuitable for this unstable environment.
UNRWA is continuing assessments of its installations that were damaged during the 50 day war. UNRWA Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Program (ICIP) teams have been visiting the damaged installations, assessing minor and severe damages since mid-July and as security permits. So far, an estimated 111 UNRWA installations have sustained damage during the conflict. Three installations – two schools and a maintenance office – might require reconstruction.
The Gaza Power Plant (GPP) remains inoperable, resulting in electricity outages of 18 hours a day. Some 450,000 people remain unable to access municipal water due to damage or low pressure. The Gaza economy has been brought to a virtual standstill due to damage in the main industrial areas, mostly situated in Eastern Gaza. The average seven year old Palestinian child from Gaza has never left the 365 square kilometer coastal enclave due to the blockade in place since 2007, and has witnessed three major military escalations. Over the years, people in Gaza have developed various coping mechanisms as a normal response to a very abnormal situation, but this most recent escalation depleted all resources.
501 Palestinian children are confirmed killed during the 50 day war. The cumulative death toll among Palestinians is at least 2,132, according to the continued collection of preliminary data by the Protection Cluster from various sources, including 257 women. The cumulative Israeli fatality toll is 71, of whom 66 were soldiers and one civilian fatality was a child.
Past 24 hours: Thirteen days after the announcement of the ceasefire, relative calm prevails in Gaza. On the morning of 8 September, the Israeli navy opened fire towards Palestinian boats, forcing them ashore. Whilst calm for calm continues between Gaza and Israel, civil unrest is a significant threat, and it is feared that anger might also turn against UNRWA and its staff. Displaced in the North are refusing to leave specific UNRWA schools and move to another shelter, unless the Agency agrees to an immediate comprehensive financial assistance package. The consolidation process of UNRWA shelters is required so that buildings can be made available for Sunday’s planned start of the school year. In the Middle Area, UN vehicles were blocked and anti-UNRWA leaflets were distributed near a shelter. The National Consensus Government, formally in place since 2 June 2014, is yet to resume effective power. Key issues remain unsolved, for example payments to former de facto government staff who continue reporting to work but have received no full salaries for over one year, and no salaries since March 2014.
As part of the Agency’s commitment to support the children of Gaza in returning to school and as a component of a new, innovative three-phase “back to school” approach, UNRWA teachers are receiving training in the provision of psychosocial support to children returning to school on 14 September.
While the current ceasefire has brought relief to children who have endured more than seven weeks of intense violence and some the destruction of their homes, it will take time for students to experience anything close to a normal school routine. UNRWA is thus facing a tremendous challenge to ensure that children are able to attend and focus while at school.
In order to provide children with the ongoing support they need, UNRWA has commenced training of its 7,800 school teachers in Gaza. Each teacher is receiving two days of training by counselors from the Agency’s Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP). Upon completion of the training, teachers will be better equipped to identify children that may be affected by post traumatic stress, will have learned to anticipate likely associated behaviours and will be in a better position to provide support to children through recreational activities. The training will also enable teachers to identify children who might require referral to psychosocial counselors.
UNRWA’s psychosocial interventions build on the support provided by the CMHP in it shelters during hostilities. One of the children enjoying the recreation and CMHP activities is 11 year old Khitam. She took refuge with her family in an UNRWA school following the shelling of her house, which caused injuries to her brother’s head and eye. Khitam says she is haunted by nightmares and feels frightened. She plays in the school every day, where she and her peers are provided with support. “I long to return to live in my home in peace and security, return to my school to play with my friends, I yearn to play with my toys which have been buried under the rubble of our home. I want to feel secure,” said Khitam.
The Agency recognizes that over the past two months, parents have endured tremendous stress and fear for the safety of their children. To this end, the Agency seeks to alleviate parents’ every day pressures and assist in helping children return to school, meet with their friends and transition slowly into traditional classroom learning.
Amal Al Gharabli is one such parent. She is a 40 year old single parent of four children. Amal and her family were forced to leave their home in Shuja'iyya, Eastern Gaza, following heavy shelling, taking refuge in an UNRWA school. Amal returned home during a humanitarian ceasefire, in order to collect items for her disabled parents. Upon arriving, she found her home was severely damaged and largely burned down. Amal said, “I do not know how to continue life as we are living in an UNRWA shelter and with the help of food and non-food assistance. The psychosocial support in the shelter is very beneficial and it helped us to cope with the isolation of our children from their usual community.”
The counseling and support provided to teachers, students and parents is set to continue throughout the school year. This includes activities for learning and recovery, diversified teaching styles, opportunities to work in groups, child friendly discipline and peer support for teachers and other educationalists.
The exceptional food distribution in partnership with the Ministry of Social Affairs and WFP is completed. The exceptional food distribution targeted all families not currently receiving regular food aid from either UNRWA or WFP. Between 11 August and 2 September, 121,680 families received a 30kg ration of flour and a 10kg ration of rice, representing 81 per cent of the total eligible families of the amended distribution plan of 150,774 families. During the 20 days of the exceptional food distribution, a total of 3,650 metric tonnes of flour and 1,217 metric tonnes of rice were distributed from all operating UNRWA food distribution centers. On average, 541 families received their rations per distribution center per day. Of the 121,680 families who received food under the exceptional distribution, 69 per cent are registered Palestine refugees and 31 per cent are non-refugees.
Between Friday 5 September and Sunday 7 September, UNRWA delivered 12 truckloads of non food items as well as 42 truckloads of food to shelters. The food support to shelters is provided in cooperation with WFP.
UNRWA’s regular food distribution to a total caseload of over 830,000 beneficiaries continued. On 7 September, food rations were provided to 3,769 families through UNRWA distribution centres. Distribution centres continue to remain open six days a week, with the exception of Friday when food commodities for the regular distribution is moved to the food distribution centres for the following week.
UNRWA, in cooperation with partners and donors, continued daily water distribution to the shelters. Between 4 and 7 September, 1,314 cubic metres of potable water were trucked, which is equivalent to between 4.7 and 6 litres of drinking water per person per day. In addition to potable water, 2,049 cubic metres of non-potable water were trucked by UNRWA, municipalities and contractors to the shelters. A total of 484 cubic metres of washing water were trucked to former shelters for the cleaning of the school buildings with a view to the resumption of the next school year.
The hygiene campaign continued to focus on lice cases in shelters, referring cases to medical focal points and organising awareness sessions on how to use lice shampoo appropriately. Lice shampoo is distributed to shelters across the Gaza Strip. The first phase of the anti-lice campaign will be completed on Monday.
Following the ceasefire, the Water and Hygiene Campaign had to establish new committees in the consolidated shelters, as many displaced who were actively involved left. As of Saturday 6 September, there were 55 IDP committees with overall 639 members (268 men and 371 women). 100 awareness sessions were held among 4,665 IDPs, focusing on cleanliness, usage of cleaning materials, best practices in water use, how to keep food from being contaminated and how to treat lice and scabies and avoid other diseases related to hygiene conditions. On Saturday 6 September, 173 persons were referred to medical focal points and 1,394 IDPs took part in cleaning campaigns. Distribution of cleaning materials was completed for all Gaza schools and is ongoing in other areas.
On 4, 6 and 7 September, a total of 66,544 patient visits were recorded. Health centers continue to serve refugees and non-refugees.
Between 5 and 7 September, a total of 814 tonnes of waste were removed from all of Gaza’s 8 camps.
Between 5 and 7 September, the 11 water wells in Jabalia Camp (6), Beach Camp (3), Khan Younis Camp (1) and Rafah (1) supplied 28,045 cubic meters of water.
SUMMARY OF MAJOR INCIDENTS
The ceasefire holds.
Data on damage to UNRWA installations is based on preliminary information and subject to change based on further verification. UNRWA estimates that 111 installations have been damaged since 8 July 2014.