Overview: February 2018
Last month’s Humanitarian Bulletin warned that the Gaza Strip was on the brink of collapse. The key drivers identified then were the lack of progress in the implementation of the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas; the unprecedented financial crisis facing UNRWA, one of the territory’s main service providers; and the risk that funding for the emergency fuel provided by the UN in Gaza would be exhausted by mid-February.
The latter threat has been temporarily averted following last moment donations for a total of $3.5 million. However, currently available funding will cover only around half of the bare minimum required to maintain emergency fuel deliveries during 2018, assuming no further deterioration in the availability of electricity. The impact of the energy crisis in all sectors of society is illustrated in this month’s Bulletin by the case of a nine-year-old boy, whose dialysis sessions are being regularly disrupted due to electricity cuts, with serious ramifications on his health; and by an interview with a Gaza municipality official, who highlights the health and environmental risks stemming from the thousands of tons of uncollected rubbish currently piling up across the city due to lack of fuel to run the garbage trucks.
While UNRWA’s crisis remains largely unchanged, some emergency funding mechanisms have been recently mobilized to mitigate the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable. An UNRWA application to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), in support of critical humanitarian interventions, is currently under process, and an international conference to raise funds for the agency, with the attendance of the UN Secretary General, will be held on 15 March in Rome. In the meantime, on 20 February, the Humanitarian Fund for the oPt, managed by OCHA, released $900,000 to provide support to 140,000 of the most vulnerable Palestinians in the West Bank, left by the cut in funding. The allocation supports the deployment of mobile clinics in 39 West Bank communities, and maintains food distributions to Bedouin and herding communities in Area C, for a period of six months.
Another article in this Bulletin, which provides an overview of demolitions and displacements in the West Bank in January and February 2018, highlights the vulnerability of Palestinian communities in Area C. Among the structures targeted during this period, citing the lack of building permits virtually impossible to obtain, were two newly-built classrooms funded by donors in the Palestinian Bedouin community of Abu Nuwar. It is located in an area planned for the expansion of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement (the E1 plan) and is one of 46 communities in the central West Bank at risk of forcible transfer due to a coercive environment, including the promotion of relocation plans. A recent assessment indicates that 36 primary schools in Area C and eight in East Jerusalem, currently serving about 5,000 children, are at risk of demolition or seizure.
The final item in this month’s Bulletin concerns the Israeli military’s blocking of vehicular access to and from Hizma, a Palestinian village of over 7,000 people in the Jerusalem governorate, reportedly in response to stone-throwing by Palestinian youth at Israeli vehicles. The closure, which is ongoing for over 40 days as of the time of writing, has disrupted the access of Hizma residents to services and livelihoods, with a disproportionate impact on young children, the elderly and disabled people. The closure of Palestinian localities following Palestinian attacks against Israelis, including stone-throwing, has been taking place on a regular basis since late 2015. According to the the UN Secretary-General this practice may amount to collective punishment, strictly prohibited under international humanitarian law.
Referring to the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza, in his February briefing to the Security Council, the UN Special Coordinator to the Peace Process, Nikolay Mladenov, warned that implementation of the intra-Palestinian agreement “has stalled”, and that in the absence of “immediate steps to address the humanitarian crisis and to revive the economy, we will face a total institutional and economic collapse in Gaza. This is not an alarmist prediction – it is a fact.” Regarding the West Bank, Mr. Mladenov reiterated “that we in the international community must continue advocating for substantial Israeli policy changes … including a halt to settlement construction, demolition of structures and prevention of Palestinian development in Area C.” He also called “upon all sides to reject violence, condemn terror, ensure accountability and work to reduce tensions.”