The humanitarian situation in both Gaza and the West Bank significantly worsened during 2021.
The land, air and sea blockade of Gaza, which entered its 15th year in June 2021, with its restrictions on the movement of people, goods and trade, continues to severely undermine Gaza’s socio-economic situation and has precipitated a humanitarian and economic crisis that is jeopardizing the lives and dignity of all Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. This dire situation was compounded by the May 2021 hostilities, the most intense Gaza has experienced since 2014. The UN Secretary-General described the situation as follows: “If there is a hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza today.” In addition to the loss of lives, the injuries and trauma, the May hostilities damaged buildings, hospitals and health centres, water and sanitation facilities, and transport, energy and communications networks.
In 2021, unemployment in Gaza reached 50.2 per cent. Chronic electricity shortages and lack of access to clean water supplies are also impacting on the economy and disrupting people’s daily lives.
The Palestinian National COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign in Gaza started on 7 March. However, insufficient quantities of vaccinations and community hesitancy has resulted in a slow implementation – only 334,917 people had been fully vaccinated by the end of October 2021.
In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the situation is characterized as a protracted protection crisis. The impact of the Israeli occupation continues to be felt on a daily basis by over 877,0007 Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA, as well as by the entire Palestinian population. In 2021, the security situation deteriorated dramatically. In the first nine months of 2021, Israeli Security Forces’ (ISF) operations led to 7,125 Palestinians injuries and 71 fatalities, of whom 26 were Palestine refugees, including four refugee children. Israeli settler violence against Palestinians, homes and livelihoods, including refugees living in rural areas, also reached the highest levels since UN monitoring commenced.
Exposure to conflict-related violence has detrimental impacts on the physical and mental health of Palestine refugees in both Gaza and the West Bank. This, coupled with the impacts of COVID-19, has disproportionately exposed women, children and persons with disabilities to greater risks of domestic abuse and violence, including Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the socio-economic situation in the West Bank and, while affecting the whole population, this has had the greatest impact on vulnerable refugee families.
Under strategic priority one, UNRWA will continue to provide emergency food and cash assistance to Palestine refugees in Gaza and the West Bank.
Under this appeal, UNRWA will continue to prioritise food assistance for 1.2 million Palestine refugees in Gaza impacted by deteriorating socio-economic conditions. This assistance is critical to ensure that the most basic food needs of vulnerable refugees are met, whilst protecting against market volatility and contributing to stability. Through its Cash-for- Work (CfW) intervention, the Agency will offer short- term employment opportunities to 47,000 vulnerable Palestine refugees. In 2022, UNRWA aims to double the number of refugees assisted through this intervention to further support jobless families in meeting their basic needs, while at the same time injecting additional funds into the local economy. In 2022 UNRWA also plans to provide a one-off multi-purpose cash transfer of US$ 40 per person to 180,000 extremely vulnerable Palestine refugees in Gaza to help cover essential needs. This assistance will be provided to families identified by the Agency’s multi-dimensional vulnerability criteria, including households headed by females, older persons or adolescents, and persons with disabilities.
In the West Bank, through an existing partnership between UNRWA and the World Food Programme (WFP), the Agency will continue to provide food parcels on a quarterly basis to 38,350 individuals from food- insecure Bedouin and herder communities in Area C, who face increased threats of home and livelihood structure demolitions and forcible displacement. Under this appeal, emergency cash assistance through the UNRWA e-card modality will be provided to 22,044 abject poor Palestine refugees inside and outside the 19 refugee camps who live on less than US$2 a day. In addition, food baskets will be provided to some 10,000 vulnerable Palestine refugee households, including 1,342 female-headed households and those in self-isolation/quarantine and/or facing COVID-19 movement restrictions.