Statement by Jamie McGoldrick (Humanitarian Coordinator), Gwyn Lewis (Director of West Bank Operations for UNRWA), James Heenan (Head of OHCHR in the occupied Palestinian territory) and Kate O’Rourke (Country Director of the Norwegian Refugee Council)
The Gaza Strip faces an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, impacting the livelihoods and access to essential services by its two million residents. This crisis has been driven by over 11 years of an Israeli blockade and an unsolved internal Palestinian divide, exacerbated since March 2018 by the massive increase in Palestinian casualties in the context of demonstrations taking place near Israel’s perimeter fence, as well as limited escalations in hostilities. The following indicators were identified by the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) to monitor the crisis, trigger humanitarian action and prevent further deterioration.
Since 30 March 2018, the Gaza Strip has witnessed a significant increase in Palestinian casualties in the context of mass demonstrations and other activities along Israel’s perimeter fence with Gaza, taking place as part of the «Great March of Return» (GMR), as well as during hostilities and access related incidents. The large number of casualties among unarmed Palestinian demonstrators, including a high percentage of demonstrators hit by live ammunition, has raised concerns about excessive use of force by Israeli troops. Exposure of children to violence and lack of protection for medical teams are also of concern. Despite significant assistance provided, addressing the resulting multi-sectoral needs of the mass influx of casualties remains challenging due to the lack of funds, years of blockade, the internal divide and a chronic energy crisis.
Longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza have undermined the living conditions of about two million Palestinians in that area. Many of the restrictions, originally imposed by Israel in the early 1990s, were intensified after June 2007, following the Hamas takeover of Gaza and the imposition of a blockade, including restrictions on the movement of people and goods between Gaza and Egypt. These restrictions continue to reduce access to livelihoods, essential services and housing, disrupt family life, and undermine people’s hopes for a secure and prosperous future.
10 per cent more structures demolished in 2018 than in 2017. 56 donor-funded structures demolished in 2018, marking a 46 per cent decline compared to 2017. A newly-built school dismantled and seized in a Hebron community.
A Palestinian woman and a Palestinian boy were killed by Israeli forces during the Friday demonstrations near the perimeter fence in Gaza, and 528 others were injured. The woman, 44-years-old, was shot with live ammunition and killed, while the child, 13-years-old, was hit by a tear gas canister in the head and injured, both while participating in a demonstration east of Gaza city on 11 January; the boy succumbed to his wounds three days later. These incidents bring the number of child fatalities during the Gaza protests since March 2018 to 36, and female fatalities to three. Also, on 13 January, a Palestinian man died of wounds sustained during protests in late October. Of the people injured during the reporting period, 292 were hospitalized, including 67 of them hit by live ammunition; the rest were treated in the field, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza. One Israeli soldier was also injured by stones thrown by Palestinian protestors.
$190 million reduction in the 2019 humanitarian appeal to maximize the impact of limited funding in increasingly restrictive environment. Almost one quarter of INGOs surveyed in late 2018 reported deligitimization forcing them to change or halt programmes. Over 1,800 women and girls injured at the Gaza demonstrations can face more severe consequences than male counterparts. Eight Palestinians and two Israelis killed in serious escalation in violence in West Bank in December; related access restrictions in Ramallah area remain.
On 17 December 2018, the humanitarian community in the oPt launched the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for 2019, an appeal for $350 million to fund assistance and protection for 1.4 million Palestinians identified as the most vulnerable. This appeal is significantly smaller than the 2018 HRP (almost $540 million), despite the fact that the level of humanitarian need, particularly in the Gaza Strip, increased. As elaborated in this Bulletin, the reduction reflects an attempt to prioritize the most urgent needs in the face of record low funding levels during 2018 and ever greater challenges to the ability of humanitarian agencies to operate, along with a recognition that these constraints are not likely to improve in the foreseeable future.
About 2.5 million Palestinians across the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), or approximately half of the population, are identified as in need of humanitarian assistance and protection according to the 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO). Of these, 1.4 million, identified as the most vulnerable, are to be targeted in 2019 by a range of interventions outlined in the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) at a total cost of US$350 million. The 2019 HRP was launched jointly by Jamie McGoldrick, the Humanitarian Coordinator, with the Minister of Social Development of the State of Palestine, Dr. Ibrahim Al Shaer, in Ramallah on 17 December.
Attempts to delegitimize humanitarian and human rights organizations operating in the oPt, particularly NGOs, have been on the rise in recent years. This has a negative impact on the ability of these organisations to deliver assistance and advocate on behalf of Palestinian rights. The situation is further compounded by longstanding access restrictions imposed on humanitarian staff and operations, restrictive legislation and attacks on human rights defenders. The shrinking of the operational space available for humanitarian work as a result of these pressures has contributed to the reduction of the 2019 humanitarian appeal for the oPt.