Information Note 3 - 6 February 2009
© UNICEF oPt/2009/El Baba
General overview/ Highlights
The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative (SRSG) on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC), accompanied by UNICEF, conducted a 4-day visit to Gaza and southern Israel between 2 and 6 February.
UNRWA suspends the import of humanitarian goods into Gaza following the confiscation by Hamas police of some of UNRWA’s supplies in the second such incident this week. The UN Secretary-General has demanded that Hamas immediately release the UNRWA humanitarian goods confiscated.
Access for NGOs and other international agencies remain difficult. Only a very restricted list of items is being allowed into Gaza, such as medicine, hygiene kits and blankets.
Thousands remain homeless.
The electricity situation in Gaza has improved slightly.
General needs and damage assessments are still underway in Gaza. Organisations are focusing on re-establishing basic services, such as water, health, food, cash assistance, education and psycho-social support. Repairs to infrastructure including shelters, water and sanitation systems and health facilities are ongoing.
A number of incidents by Palestinian militants and Israeli forces undermined the cease-fire in the last few days, leading to a number of casualties.
The Israeli general elections will be held on the 10th of February, causing a closure of the Erez border crossing to Gaza on that day.
Children account for roughly a third of the dead and wounded. As reported by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), according to Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH) figures as at February 5, 1,440 Palestinians are dead, of whom 431 are children and 114 are women. According to the MoH, the rise in the number of casualties is due to the delay in people officially registering the deaths of family members from the conflict. 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. Seven school children were also killed in recent incidents since the ceasefire.
Three Israeli civilians were killed and 183 injured since 27 December by rocket and mortar fire by Palestinian militants from Gaza.
As reported by OCHA, an initial survey conducted by the UNDP estimates that over 14,000 homes, 68 government building and 31 non-governmental organization offices were either totally or partially damaged during the latest conflict. As a result, an estimated 600,000 tonnes of concrete rubble will need to be removed. Construction materials remain a priority need in order to rebuild destroyed homes,
schools, hospitals and clinics.
A needs assessment of around 400,000 individuals at the household level has now been completed and the results are being tabulated. Initial results indicate that 10,000-15,000 people have nowhere to live, with very limited access to sanitation facilities. Thousands have found shelter at relatives or other hosts.
As at 5 February, three UNRWA shelters remain open for 388 displaced people. Priority needs for the population include blankets, mattresses, plastic sheeting, kitchen kits, hygiene kits, water tanks, clothing and tents.
As reported by OCHA, since 1 February, the Gaza Power Plant has received increased fuel to operate the power plant. Despite this development, most of Gaza households are receiving only intermittent electricity with an average of eight hours of power scheduled in Gaza and North Gaza three times per week. Unscheduled power cuts continue.
Gaza’s power utility, GEDCO, estimates the damage to the electricity network, due to the recent hostilities, at over $10 million. Due to the 18-month blockade, spare part supply was close to depletion even prior to the hostilities. GEDCO is in urgent need of materials and concrete to repair damage to the network.
Full and unhindered access to Gaza is critical and remains problematic. Only a very restricted list of items has been being allowed in. Examples of goods with relatively easy access are medicines, hygiene kits, and blankets. However, there are items for which UNICEF has repeatedly requested access without success:
• educational items, including stationery for students and teachers (pencils, rulers, erasers, pencil sharpeners, geometry sets, etc.),
• sports and recreational kits (containing balls, chalk, crayon, frisbee, water color set, games and toys, volleyball poles, hoola hoops, dumbbells stand, table tennis, sports metal lockers, basket ball racks),
• (solar) freezers used for vaccine storage plus spare parts, generators.
The difficulties facing non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in accessing Gaza, and the unpredictable crossing procedures, are hindering efforts to address the humanitarian crisis.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) on Friday said it is suspending humanitarian aid in Gaza until further notice, after Hamas seized 10 truckloads of flour and rice from the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom Crossing. The food was taken away by trucks contracted by the Ministry of Social Affairs. This is the second incident in 3 days. On Tuesday, 3,500 hundred blankets and over 400 food parcels were taken at gun point from a distribution store in Beach Camp, Gaza. UNRWA has demanded the return of this aid as well.
The level of truckloads of aid allowed into Gaza daily is insufficient to meet the needs. UNRWA reports that in order to avoid a crisis it needs roughly 400 aid trucks a day, but at the moment only about 130-140 trucks are allowed in to meet with humanitarian needs. The Israeli authorities have assured the humanitarian community that Kerem Shalom would be improved to allow 150 trucks per day. However, for the most part, capacity has not exceeded 120 truckloads.
According to OCHA reports from Palestinian sources at Rafah, the crossing to Gaza has closed again for Palestinians as of 5 February. Palestinian medical cases will be allowed through the crossing on an ad hoc basis and the movement of goods will not be permitted through Rafah except on an urgent basis.
It is a priority that all crossings into Gaza and Israel be operational and the number of trucks allowed into Gaza be increased.
Explosive remnants of war are limiting the access of aid workers to certain areas and endangering the lives of children. On 2 February UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) identified a large unexploded ordnances (UXO) dump very close to the UNRWA Gaza Field Office and engaged in operations to minimize the risk of detonation of the UXOs in the dump. UNMAS has presently categorized the stocks to be stable; however there remains the need to follow precautions and maintain awareness of the threat.
UNICEF is leading the mine risk awareness operation and continues to highlight the danger posed by UXOs, in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and other agencies. Two children lost their lives by UXOs in Gaza in January.
Special Representative to the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict visits oPt
On February 5, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, briefed the press on her travels to Gaza and southern Israel and of her discussions with Palestinian and Israeli authorities. Ms. Coomaraswamy arrived on 2 February to ascertain first-hand the impact of the recent conflict on children and to ensure that children are protected and their needs are addressed. Ms Coomaraswamy met with the Government of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, including Prime Minister Salaam Fayad, members of the civil society, NGOs and children affected by the conflict in Gaza and Ashkelon. "Many of the children I met vividly described very troubling experiences. Besides their material needs, I think there is a much traumatized population that needs help," Ms Coomaraswamy stated during her visit to oPt.
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.
Out of 122 health facilities assessed by UNICEF and WHO, about 48 percent were damaged or destroyed, including: 15 hospitals and 41 primary health care (PHC) centers partially damaged; two PHC centers destroyed; 29 ambulances were partially damaged or destroyed (WHO). However, most health facilities have resumed normal operation.
UNICEF is coordinating with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and UNRWA on the implementation process of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination campaign targeting 120,000 students aged 11-15 years. The vaccination campaign is scheduled to take place on 25 February and will target children through UNRWA and Governmental schools and clinics. UNICEF and UNRWA have also resumed routine vaccination programmes in all shelters.
According to OCHA reports, based on preliminary data from the Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Unit of the Ministry of Health, the largest proportion of injuries during the conflict, 44 per cent, was caused by shrapnel. ICRC reports that 70 amputations were carried out at Shifa Hospital during the three weeks of hostilities.
According to OCHA reports, only one of two rehabilitation hospitals in Gaza is functioning. A Jordanian field hospital is covering the remaining caseload, focusing mainly on surgery and chronic patients. The field hospital has no capacity for rehabilitation services. As reported by OCHA and Handicap International, over half of the 5,380 injured during the conflict may suffer life-long impairment.
Hospitals, and much of their medical equipment, are in need of urgent repairs, already deteriorated by the Israeli blockade of Gaza for over a year and a half. However, repairs are dependent on the ability to import spare parts into Gaza. Some medical supplies, including heavy painkillers and medicines for cancer patients and patients with bleeding disorders, are not available (ICRC).
UNICEF is facing restrictions in moving educational and recreational supplies in to Gaza. 100,000 notebooks are en route to Gaza and are expected to arrive on 6 February. UNRWA operated schools only have 40 per cent of the text books needed due to the restriction of aid supply access to Gaza (UNRWA). The inter-agency coordination group on education prepared a list of priority items for logistics coordination group, including supplies for basic education, recreation and play for various age groups, and basic education items for teachers.
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.
All government and UNRWA schools in Gaza re-opened on 24 January. On 28 January, student attendance in UNRWA’s 221 schools was 96 percent and teacher attendance was 99 percent. Reports as of 26 January indicate the overall figure of attendance is at 80 per cent of pupils. It is expected that the attendance rate is higher among younger children, and lower among adolescents.
Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH)
Some 300,000 people remain without tap water, according to the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) in Gaza. UNICEF is concerned with the lack of access for materials and equipments for the repairs of WASH facilities in Gaza. There is great need for water distribution via tankers; however access to Gaza is limited and there are not enough water tankers within Gaza to respond to the immediate needs. The first report from the Palestinian Hydrology Group’s damage assessment shows that the price for tankered water is still too expensive for many people.
Between 2 February and 5 February, UNICEF delivered 1 collapsible water tank to the Shoka area in Rafah and distributed 104 basic family water kits to their partner organization, Oxfam, for further distribution to families in Gaza. From 20 January, UNICEF has distributed 200 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.
Sewage leaks within Gaza have been repaired; however the long term impact of the sewage leaks has not been assessed. COOPI has received funding from the Humanitarian Emergency Response Fund (HERF) for collection of solid waste in Gaza City and will collect 2 800 tons of waste per week for three months.
The impact of the use of munitions of white phosphorus on the environment has not yet been determined.
According to UNICEF staff in Gaza, 60 per cent of the population of Gaza has access to water every other day, while 20 per cent has access to water every 3 days, 10 per cent every 5 days, and the remaining 10 per cent depends entirely on water aid provided by different humanitarian organizations.
According to OCHA reports, the Gaza population continues to face difficulty obtaining food due to shortages on the market and the shortage of cash. 88 percent of Gazans are now registered to receive food aid. Shops and markets continue to offer limited food supplies; prices have doubled or tripled since before 27 December.
A three-month breastfeeding campaign was launched on 2 February to strengthen the capacity of 80 health workers. Trainees will include physicians, nurses, midwives, and field workers. Prior to the crisis, only 15 per cent of newborns were exclusively breastfed (OCHA). Based on population estimates from the Ministry of Health, there are nearly 255,000 infants and children under 60 months of age in Gaza. According to UNICEF’s Special Representative for oPt, Ms. Patricia McPhillips, donations of milk, however well-intentioned are discouraged and should only be accepted when their use can be carefully targeted and monitored. UNICEF is concerned with establishing an appropriate environment for women, one that protects, promotes and supports breastfeeding, which has multiple benefits for infants.
UNICEF 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.
Child Protection & Adolescent Development and Participation
Between 2 February and 5 February, UNICEF delivered 100 outdoor recreational kits to the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) in Khan Yunis for further distribution. UNICEF also distributed 800 blankets, and 80 indoor recreational kits to the Community Training Centre and Crisis Management (CTCCM) in Gaza.
Mine-risk awareness radio messages continue to be broadcast on local radio stations. UNICEF has also distributed 75,000 leaflets on protection from UXOs and 200,000 awareness raising leaflets, pamphlets and games are currently being printed and will be going for distribution to schools and family centers in Gaza.
Local staff at UNICEF’s partner NGO in Gaza have identified priority needs for children to include school repairs and provision of school bags; shelter and water; as well as transportation for displaced children to school. The staff reported that children were experiencing psychosomatic symptoms and there were reported cases of women bedwetting.
In response to the severe distress caused by the recent conflict and the acute disruption of support mechanisms, UNICEF partner psycho-social teams have been conducting visits to households, health facilities and shelters. An initial 450 visits have already been conducted. 50,000 copies of child protection leaflets are also being reprinted as a guide for parents on how to assist their children to cope with stress.
21 out of 28 adolescent-friendly learning centers in Gaza are operational with daily recreational activities. Staff from the adolescent friendly learning centres have been visiting UNRWA schools in recent days, encouraging adolescents to visit the centres and utilize the services offered there.
Four adolescent friendly learning centres in Gaza are currently being equipped as family centres and will provide psychosocial support services as well as outreach and Early Childhood Development (ECD) services for pregnant women and mothers with young children. The centres are expected to be fully operational by the 12th of February.
Two adolescent friendly learning centers operated by UNICEF’s partner Maan are under control of militants. One of the centres is in Bayt Hanun and the other is in the Zaytun area east of Gaza City.
In total 45 UNICEF truckloads have entered Gaza since access was opened, comprising of a total of $2 million in deliveries.