Information Note 6 - 10 February 2009
© UNICEF oPt/2009/El Baba
General overview/ Highlights
A UNDP survey just published has shown that the recent fighting has taken a great economic, social and psychological toll on the lives of Gazans. The survey shows that almost two-thirds of the households polled said they needed assistance, identifying emotional and psychological aid as a top priority, followed by employment, housing, financial support and medical attention. The survey also cited signs of stress among children, such as bedwetting, nightmares, aggressive behavior and anxiety.
On 10 February UNRWA lifted the suspension on the movements of its humanitarian goods into Gaza after Hamas authorities returned all UNRWA aid supplies which were previously confiscated on 3 and 5 February.
Access for NGOs and other international agencies into Gaza remains difficult. Only a very restricted list of items is being allowed into Gaza, such as medicine, hygiene kits and blankets. Educational items and needed spare parts for infrastructure repair still face heavy access restrictions.
Violent incidents are undermining the cease-fire agreement, leading to a number of casualties.
The Israeli general elections were held on 10 February, causing a closure of the Erez border crossing to Gaza.
Children account for roughly a third of the dead and wounded. Since 5 February there have been no new official updates from the Palestinian Ministry of Health on casualties and injuries in Gaza. The figure remains of 1,440 Palestinians dead, of whom 431 are children and 114 are women. This number does not include those who have died due to lack of access to regular health care. The number of injuries still stands at 5,380, of whom 1,872 are children and 800 are women.
Three Israeli civilians were killed and 183 injured since 27 December by rocket and mortar fire by Palestinian militants from Gaza.
As at 9 February, three non-school UNRWA shelters remain open for 388 displaced people, including 217 children, as reported by OCHA and Save the Children. Thousands of Gazans remain homeless. However, most Gazans who have suffered displacement have been able to stay with host families. These families are now faced with shortages of food, blankets, water and electricity (OCHA).
Priority needs for the population of Gaza include blankets, mattresses, plastic sheeting, kitchen kits, hygiene kits, water tanks, clothing and tents.
As OCHA reports, Israel allowed the transfer of the equivalent of USD 42 million from banks in the West Bank to Gaza on 6 February. As reported by the Bank of Palestine, this money transfer will enable the Palestinian Authority to pay the salaries of its 70,000 Gaza-based employees. Israel last allowed cash into the Gaza Strip in mid-December 2008. More cash flow to Gaza is needed to reactivate the private sector and prevent increasing dependence on aid.
Electricity and Fuel
Petrol and diesel for public use were last allowed into Gaza on 2 November 2008. As a result, most of the 240 Gaza fuel stations have closed. The Gas Station Owners Association reports a significant drop in the amount of fuel smuggled through the Gaza-Egyptian border since the beginning of February, largely due to the destruction of tunnels by Israel. Sources in Rafah suggest an overall decrease in the amount of merchandise being smuggled into Gaza through the tunnels due to the ongoing Israeli aerial attacks. According to OCHA reports, the Israeli Air Force conducted a number of air strikes on 6 and 9 February, targeting tunnels under the Gaza-Egyptian borders, as well as buildings and open areas in southern Gaza.
Most of Gazan households are receiving only intermittent electricity and unscheduled power cuts continue. Gaza’s power utility, GEDCO, is in urgent need of materials and concrete to repair damage to the network.
NGOs continue to face difficulties accessing the Gaza Strip to carry out humanitarian work. Humanitarian personnel are only allowed to enter Gaza through the Erez crossing after receiving prior clearance by the Israeli authorities.
Access constraints continue to hinder relief efforts in Gaza. Urgently needed construction materials to rebuild destroyed schools, hospitals, clinics and homes are not allowed to Gaza as well as necessary educational supplies for children in Gaza. Spare parts and fuel for the power plant, hospitals and water and sewage treatment facilities have also been blocked, in addition to plastic sheeting which is used for plastic bags to distribute food.
According to UNSCO and OCHA, approximately 10,000 truckloads of goods entered Gaza in August 2000, while approximately 3,000 truckloads entered Gaza in January 2009. In the meantime, the population increased by approximately 24 percent.
Between 5 and 8 February, 274 truckloads, including 164 for aid agencies, entered Gaza via Kerem Shalom crossing. Ninety-five truckloads of grain were transferred into Gaza through the Karni conveyor belt. 792,200 litres of industrial gas entered through Nahal Oz.
Although the Israeli authorities have informed the humanitarian community that 150 trucks would be allowed into Gaza per day, for the most part capacity has not exceeded 120 truckloads. In addition, only a restricted list of items is being allowed into Gaza.
During a press conference on Gaza on 9 February, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN Secretary-General’s Special representative for Children and Armed Conflict, reiterated the call for Israel to open its border crossings with Gaza and to expand the list of items to be allowed in -– especially regarding school supplies -- saying that around 400 trucks per day would be needed to meet humanitarian needs arising from the recent conflict, and over 1,000 trucks would eventually be needed once reconstruction began.
General elections in Israel
Voting stations across Israel opened at 7 am on 10 February. Voting ends at 10 pm and the first official results are not expected until Wednesday 11 February. Due to the general elections in Israel all access to Gaza is closed on 10 February.
The inter-agency Gaza Flash Appeal was launched on 2 February for a total of $613 million to support 1.4 million Gazans over a nine-month period. UNICEF has requested a total of $34.5 million for activities in the sectors of child protection, psycho-social and mental health, education, water, sanitation and hygiene, nutrition, and health. The bulk of UNICEF’s funding requirements will cover child protection programmes amounting to $12 million, followed by education projects totaling $9.5 million.
Handicap International has issued a preliminary estimate stating that 30 percent of those who were injured during the hostilities are at risk of becoming permanently disabled and will require rehabilitation or other specialized services to prevent or mitigate their disability (OCHA).
According to WHO, an estimated 40 percent of chronic patients interrupted their treatment during the hostilities and around 25,000 to 50,000 new people are likely to be in need of psychological intervention for longer term effects of the hostilities. Groups particularly at risk include separated children, people with pre-existing mental disabilities, pre-existing or new physical disabilities, elderly who have lost family support and female-headed households.
WHO has warned that the risk of outbreaks of waterborne diseases will increase if water and sanitation services are not fully restored.
A measles mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination campaign is scheduled to take place on 25 February. The campaign will target 120,000 students aged 11-15 years, through UNRWA and Governmental schools and selected primary health care clinics.
Nutrition and Food security
According to the Food and Nutrition Cluster, food availability in Gaza is volatile and dependent on both the opening of border crossings for both humanitarian and commercial goods as well as local production and the recovery time for the agricultural sector. In addition, an extremely important factor influencing food security in the weeks and months to come is the resumption of the cash economy and employment. Although availability of food is currently not an issue, the accessibility of food, including due to soaring prices, remains a problem for the population of Gaza.
FAO estimates that almost all of Gaza’s eleven thousand small-holder farms suffered damage, with thousands of them severely affected or even completely destroyed, whilst many of the Gazan fishing families have lost their equipments and assets in the hostilities. The destruction of crops, fertile land, animals, agricultural assets and key infrastructure is preventing the production and distribution of fresh food, with widespread protein and micronutrient deficiencies predicted to worsen. Gaza’s agricultural sector was already weakened by the 18-month long border closure and rising costs of inputs.
A joint UN-NGO damage assessment of the agriculture sector estimates the total direct losses at over $180 million, including direct losses to plant production, animal production and agricultural infrastructure. Additionally, FAO estimates losses to the fishing industry as a result of the military operation at over USD 2.2 million (OCHA).
According to Save the Children and OCHA reports, WFP and UNRWA have expanded their food distributions to cover an additional 255,000 people, including 142,800 children. This brings the total number of people in Gaza dependent on food aid from these two organizations to 1,265,000 people including 708,400 children.
In light of the poor quality of water in Gaza, the MoH and UNICEF are concerned about the increased risk of diarrhea and other water-borne diseases in infants given formula milk as a substitute to breastfeeding. The MoH and UNICEF advise that donations of formula milk should only be accepted if carefully targeted and monitored.
The Food and Nutrition inter-agency cluster, of which UNICEF is a member, has drafted a statement on infant and young child feeding. The cluster members have raised concerns about the increased donations of breast milk substitutes in Gaza.
UNICEF, through its partner organization ANERA, is currently distributing 7,500 cartons of fortified biscuits and micronutrients sufficient for 80,000 preschool children for one month. The distribution commenced on February 8 and will continue until mid-March. This distribution is done within the framework of the Milk for Pre-Schools joint project by UNICEF and ANERA which will continue until September 2009.
The three month breastfeeding capacity building campaign which was launched on 2 February continues. 80 health workers from 24 MoH health facilities and 12 relevant NGOs will be trained during the campaign. The group of trainees will include physicians, nurses, midwives and field workers from UNRWA, MoH and NGOs.
UNICEF also continues to support a local NGO to care for 900 children through its therapeutic programme for severely acute malnourished children. UNICEF is also supporting four therapeutic feeding centres, and has provided micronutrient supplies, including Vitamin A and D for 50,000 children.
According to OCHA reports, a UNDP rapid damage assessment of 170 out of the 407 government and private schools in the Gaza Strip found that ten schools (eight government and two private) were severely damaged, and that 160 government and ten private schools were partially damaged, during the Israeli military operation. Repairing damaged schools remains an urgent priority. Also, children’s clothes and stationary items continue to be priority items and essential for children’s return to school.
UNICEF continues to face restrictions in moving educational and recreational supplies in to Gaza. Despite these restrictions, UNICEF delivered 100,000 notebooks to Gaza on Friday 6 February through the Logistics Cluster.
10 UNICEF tents arrived in Gaza on 8 February; the tents will be used as learning spaces in the most damage stricken areas. A further supply of tents is in the pipeline this week.
The inter-agency coordination group on education, which UNICEF is leading in cooperation with Save the Children, is working with the MoEHE on a 3-6 month education response plan and has finalized a distribution plan for educational supplies to all six directorates in Gaza.
UNICEF continues its efforts to provide essential educational equipment and materials to re-establish learning and recreational activities, create safe environments, and provide a sense of normalcy for children. UNICEF has provided 130 school-in-a-box kits, including items such as pens, pencils, and exercise books for 12,000 children, 84 recreational kits targeting 6,720 children, 6 school tents, 42 maths and 42 science kits for 4,200 children in all six districts of Gaza. Most of these items were pre-positioned in Gaza.
Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH)
According to the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) on 9 February, 50,000 persons are completely without access to water in Gaza and an additional 150,000 – 200,000 are virtually without water, receiving water only every 5 or 6 days. Emergency repairs of the Gaza water systems are ongoing; however no major repairs can be done due to access restrictions on both expert assistance and necessary items for repairs.
Wastewater is no longer visible in the streets in Gaza, but the long term impact of the sewage leaks has not been assessed.
According to the first draft report from PHG there is solid waste accumulating in most assessed areas (with the exception of many areas in Gaza City). The most urgent needs include distribution and repair of roof top tanks, restoration of water network lines and additional trucks for solid waste collection. There is also a need for mobile toilets for those who are internally displaced.
Between 5 and 9 February, UNICEF distributed 3,740 bottles of water to MoEHE for the middle area, Khan Yunis and Rafah, to be distributed to schools based on needs.
UNICEF is working to provide additional funding assistance to CMWU to enable the continuation of urgent repairs to the Gaza water system. UNICEF previously provided the CMWU with $50,000 shortly after the ceasefire, for urgent repair costs.
The UNICEF-led interagency cluster on WASH services is liaising with the Logistics cluster in order to increase for WASH supplies into Gaza. The shortage of water tankers is severely hindering the amount of water distribution to areas of need.
From 20 January, UNICEF has delivered 1 collapsible water tank to the Shoka area in Rafah, distributed over 300 basic family kits and 3 collapsible water tanks in southern and central Gaza, 50 family hygiene kits for 50 families in Gaza City and northern Gaza, provided over 66,000 bottles of water to approximately 20,000 people, and sponsored the distribution of over 2000 hygiene kits to other affected communities in Gaza.
Child Protection/Adolescent Development and Participation
Save the Children reports of a WHO estimate stating that 25,000 to 50,000 people – including some 14,000 to 28,000 children - will need some form of psychological intervention for longer-term effects. The loss of care and protection of parents or primary caregivers, disruptions to daily life including school and play activities, and loss of adequate nutrition can mean that children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to psychosocial distress.
The UNICEF Child Protection Section continues its work towards ensuring access to schools for displaced children, provision of educational and recreational materials, treatment of children showing psychosomatic symptoms, as well as capacity building of partners in the field.
Mine-risk awareness radio messages continue to be broadcast on local radio stations. Additionally, TV spots for children about mine and UXO awareness will be produced by the Palestinian Center for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (PCDCR).
A joint WHO and UNICEF delegation is visiting oPt this week, assisting agencies in their Mental Health and Psychosocial support services through the use of Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) guidelines.
Adolescent friendly learning spaces continue to provide support to targeted adolescents through recreational activities in 21 different locations. Lack of supplies in these canters, due to restricted access to Gaza, is seriously affecting their operational modality. UNICEF is continuing efforts to replace the canters which were destroyed during the conflict.
UNICEF is working on outreach activities to adolescents in Gaza, including media outreach and outreach activities in Palestinian Authority and UNRWA schools, encouraging adolescents to stay in school and visit the learning centers. UNICEF is also encouraging adolescents’ lead initiatives in community recovery.
Four adolescent friendly learning centers in Gaza are in the process of being equipped as family centers and will provide psychosocial support services as well as outreach for children and adolescents and early childhood development (ECD) services for pregnant women and mothers with young children. An additional four locations have been identified in the most affected areas to start family activities.
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