The Socio-political Situation
In Gaza, the sea, air and land closure was imposed by Israel in June 2007, reinforcing previous restrictions on the territory. It resulted in a ban on most imports and exports and severe restrictions on the movement of people. The closure, together with ongoing violence in the form of Israeli bombings and rocket attacks out of Gaza, has contributed to a deteriorating humanitarian situation. While the easing of restrictions in June 2010 has improved the level of imports and exports, the movement of people and goods in and out of the territory is highly restricted and humanitarian conditions remain fragile. Due to Israeli security policies, an estimated 17 per cent of the Gaza land mass, including 35 per cent of its agricultural land and 85 per cent of its maritime space, remains totally or partially inaccessible. The continuing internal divide between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Fatah in the West Bank further complicates the political and humanitarian situations on the ground.
Movement and access remain critical issues in the West Bank. Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza face difficulty accessing East Jerusalem, which is traditionally the centre for medical and education facilities and worship. The city continues to be cut off from the rest of the West Bank due to administrative and physical access restrictions, including the Barrier. Movement between West Bank cities has improved in recent years, due to the development of an alternative and lower-quality secondary road network. Most Palestinians have limited access to the main routes, which are restricted to Israelis (mainly settlers).
Over 60 per cent of the West Bank is zoned as Area C, where Israel retains control over security, planning and zoning. This area encompasses most of the Palestinian agricultural and grazing land and is the only contiguous area in the West Bank. The continuing growth of settlements, with 500,000 settlers in the West Bank including East Jerusalem, has reduced the space available for Palestinians. There has been an increase in Palestinian displacement as a result of evictions, house demolitions and settler violence. Despite this, significant progress has been made in building the Palestinian Authority (PA) institutions and the economy in the West Bank.
The UN maintains a semi-integrated presence in oPt with political, development, humanitarian and human rights components. The Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process heads the Special Political Mission, UNSCO, and fulfils a coordination role among UN agencies. The Deputy Special Coordinator (DSC) is also Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC) for the 22 resident and three non-resident UN agencies, and for funds and programmes active in oPt. The DSC/RC/HC’s mandate is to strengthen UN inter-agency coordination and mobilize financial, technical, economic and other assistance to respond to Palestinian people’s needs.
The Humanitarian Situation
Humanitarian conditions in oPt are directly related to the continuing conflict and occupation of the Palestinian territory. They can best be characterized as a protection crisis with serious humanitarian consequences brought about by lack of respect for IHL and International Human Rights Law (IHRL).
Entrenched levels of food insecurity, limited access to essential services, and serious protection and human rights concerns are key features of the situation. Between January and July 2011, there were 63 conflict-related civilian deaths and 1,266 injuries throughout oPt, with settler violence a contributing factor. While most of the needs are located in Gaza, refugee camps in the West Bank, Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem, Area C and the seam zones are also affected.
Vast disparities in living conditions exist throughout oPt. The West Bank has benefited from major institutional reforms and improved security conditions within the framework of the PA state-building agenda. It has been buoyed by large flows of international assistance and fewer internal obstacles to the movement of goods and people. However, macro-economic growth is mostly aid-dependent and therefore unsustainable. There are still more than 500 obstacles to movement, in addition to 490 ad hoc “flying” (temporary and mobile) checkpoints per month. This excludes 100 movement obstacles in the town of Hebron. Movement obstructions and harassment by Israeli soldiers and attacks by Israeli settlers are still part of the daily reality for many Palestinians. Displacement remains a key concern. Between January and July 2011 in Area C and Jerusalem, 752 individuals were displaced as a result of evictions, demolitions and settler violence. It is estimated that 79 per cent of herders and bedouins in Area C are food insecure, compared with an average of 25 per cent for the overall West Bank.
The population in Gaza has experienced a decline in living conditions due to the closures and blockade, with deteriorating infrastructure and poor quality of vital services such as health, shelter, education, and water and sanitation. About 54 per cent of Gazans are food insecure and a further 12 per cent are vulnerable to food insecurity. Continuing restrictions on the import of medical supplies and equipment, and on the movement of health staff between the West Bank and Gaza, have severely restricted the health sector’s recovery. While there is a construction boom in Gaza due to the tunnel economy, the difficulty in implementing UN projects in the area means that vulnerable populations are not benefiting from this boom. A shelter crisis exists in Gaza, with an estimated 1,981 families dependent on rental assistance and 5,611 refugee families living in camps in derelict and inadequate conditions, waiting to be re-housed. Water and sanitation are critical, with an estimated 90 per cent of the Gaza aquifer unsafe to drink.
The Humanitarian Strategy and Response
The humanitarian strategy in oPt focuses on:
A concerted and coordinated advocacy effort to mitigate the factors that cause humanitarian vulnerability and prevent credible recovery and development.
An effectively coordinated sectoral response to mitigate humanitarian needs.
Within this strategic framework, the 2012 Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) focuses on: (i) improving the protection environment of Palestinian communities most at risk through active protective programming in all sectors of response, and through better targeted and coordinated advocacy initiatives for the respect of IHL and IHRL; and (ii) tackling food insecurity. This year, the Common Humanitarian Action Plan (CHAP) is a two-year plan for 2012-13.
This will allow for humanitarian organizations and donors to better plan their interventions and contributions, and to increase the predictability of the humanitarian response. It will also complement strategic efforts by humanitarian and development actors to coordinate the CAP, Palestinian National Development Plan (PNDP) and the Medium-Term Response Plan (MTRP) processes.
The CAP’s needs analysis highlighted the connection between the Protection, Education, Health and Nutrition and Wash clusters. The communities that face the most severe protection risks are also those with the most limited access to essential services. Accordingly, humanitarian action targets the most vulnerable populations in Gaza, East Jerusalem, H2 (section of Hebron that remains under full Israeli control) and Area C. This includes areas near Israeli settlements and those affected by the Barrier. It also highlights emergency needs throughout oPt where humanitarian assistance is warranted, in support of, or in addition to, recovery and development responses. The humanitarian response seeks to provide assistance in the areas to which the PA does not have access.
There are 76 agencies in CAP 2011, including 12 UN agencies. There are 4.2 million Palestinians living in oPt, the West Bank and Gaza Strip who indirectly benefit from OCHA’s services through better coordinated and targeted humanitarian assistance. In 2011, the CAP request was set at $585.5 million and revised to $536 million at midyear review, of which 46 per cent has been received to date. In 2012, $430 million is being sought. The clusters/sectors included in the 2012 CAP include Agriculture, Cash-for-Work and Cash Assistance, Coordination and Support Services, Education, Food, Health and Nutrition, Protection, and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.
Current projections suggest that the difficult political environment will continue and the situation on the ground will remain fragile. The PA will face continuing shortfalls in budget assistance, but donors are likely to remain engaged on Palestinian institution-building efforts. This will improve services in Areas A and B. The situation in Gaza will remain strained, with periods of intense violence and no real improvement in livelihoods for the most vulnerable. The situation will be influenced by any resumption of negotiations between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza that aims to resolve the continuing political stalemate.
Continued high levels of food insecurity are likely in Gaza and the West Bank (more than 30 per cent). Protection concerns will remain at the centre of humanitarian action throughout oPt due to the closures and blockade, clashes between IDF and Palestinian militants, increased settler violence, demolitions, evictions and movement restrictions. This will lead to increased displacement of populations from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. There will be a continued need for emergency interventions to assist the most vulnerable communities in Gaza, given the lack of meaningful reconstruction and limited livelihood opportunities. Area C will remain a priority for humanitarian assistance due to continued limitations on development activities. The implementation of humanitarian programmes in Gaza, Area C, seam zones and East Jerusalem will continue to be difficult.