Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs


Situation Report on the Humanitarian Situation in the Gaza Strip – No. 15

20-21 January 2009

The following information is based on reports from member states, the UN Country Team for the occupied Palestinian territory, humanitarian partners and authorities involved in the humanitarian response.


1. General Overview

1. As of 21 January, the ceasefires declared by Israel and Hamas continued to hold and Israel had withdrawn all forces from Gaza. On 20 January, a Palestinian farmer was killed by Israeli gunfire east of Jabalia. A number of mortars were also fired from Palestine towards Israel, though no damage was reported. Since 27 December, over 600 rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza. In the wake of the intensive fighting, the current priority in Gaza is to assess needs and damages while continuing to provide urgently needed assistance. On 21 January, the IFRC reported that, “humanitarian needs remain extremely acute,” and UNDP warned that there will be long-term consequences of the latest conflict, which affected the livelihoods and assets of tens of thousands of Gazans.

2. During a mission to Gaza on 20 January, the UN Secretary General noted that the fraction of the damage he witnessed was, “shocking and alarming,” and that he was sobered by the, “relief and recovery challenges ahead”.  He also condemned the attacks on civilians by both parties to the conflict and re-emphasized that, “international humanitarian law must be upheld and respected by all”. He underscored that he is, “concerned about the potential long-term impact of the recent crisis on the entire society, and particularly [on] young children”.

3. The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator arrived in Jerusalem on 21 January for a four-day mission to review humanitarian needs in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). He will initiate an assessment of humanitarian needs in Gaza on 22 January.

4. A Flash Appeal is being developed based on ongoing assessments. The Appeal will include revisions of projects that exist in the 2009 Consolidated Appeal for the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as additional projects to respond to new needs. The document will be launched in early February.

5. According to a rapid assessment of the humanitarian situation in Gaza (based on phone interviews with 525 people), CARE reported that more than half of the respondents (56 percent) were hosting displaced people. Approximately one third of those surveyed indicated that water was their most urgent need and 71 percent reported that they had problems accessing clean water. Half of those surveyed underscored that access to cash was their priority need.

2.1 Coordination and Humanitarian Response

2.1. Protection

6. Two Palestinian children were killed by unexploded ordnance (UXOs) east of Gaza City on 20 January, underscoring the serious protection concerns posed by the proliferation of UXOs and explosive remnants of war (ERW) in Gaza. On 21 January, the ICRC highlighted that UXOs and ERW represent another, “major new danger” in Gaza. ICRC outlined that “the fact that Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world makes the problem of unexploded munitions even more acute” and related security risks could cause delays in carrying out urgently needed humanitarian work.

7. Casualty figures:

2.2. Gaza Border Crossings

8. The Israeli Joint Humanitarian Coordination Cell (JHCC) was dissolved on 21 January. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) plans to hold a meeting during the week of 26 January to brief on the procedures for the entry of goods and staff into Gaza. Authorization is required on a case-by-case basis from the COGAT for the import of all reconstruction materials into Gaza.

2.3. Food

9. WFP will participate in the joint rapid assessment of humanitarian needs in Gaza during the week of 19 January followed by a rapid joint WFP/UNRWA/FAO food security assessment during the week of 26 January. With 80 percent of the population in Gaza in need of food assistance, WFP is planning to scale up operations and is launching a specific emergency operation to provide food assistance to 365,000 of the non-refugee population in Gaza.

10. On 20 January, UNRWA distributed food parcels to 2,914 households and WFP distributed food to over 1,600 households; WFP has increased their ration size for the next three months. A first consignment of ten tonnes of ready-to-eat date bars was delivered to Gaza on 20 January. Since 27 December, WFP reached more than 150,500 beneficiaries from its regular caseload and an additional 40,000 people through emergency bread distribution and the distribution of ready-to-eat foods. WFP now has access to 89 percent of its existing stocks in Gaza.

2.4. Health

11. WHO reported that there has been a generous and rapid response to the needs of the health sector, including substantial donations of drugs and health supplies. WHO encouraged all donors to coordinate the process of health assistance in consultation with the Health Cluster, which is working closely with the Palestinian (MoH).

12. Since 27 December, WHO reported that 34 health facilities (including eight hospitals and 26 primary health care – PHC – clinics) were damaged or destroyed in direct or indirect shelling. Fifty out of 56 PHC clinics are now functioning and UNRWA reported that on 19 January, there were 15,000 patient consultations at their clinics, which is close to rate before the recent conflict. The Palestinian MoH is strengthening surveillance systems to prevent the outbreak of communicable disease.

2.5. Essential Infrastructure

13. Reporting that 14 percent of all structures in Gaza were destroyed or damaged during the fighting, the Palestinian Statistical Authority (PSA) estimates that reconstruction could cost USD 1.9 billion. An ICRC assessment concluded that 250 houses and apartments were badly or completely destroyed in the Al-Atatra and Zaytun neighbourhoods of Gaza city alone.

14. Since 18 January, the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) and the GEDCO (Gaza’s electrical utility organization) have been assessing and repairing damage to the electricity, water and wastewater networks. According to GEDCO, 40 percent of the population remain without electricity, and the rest have only intermittent supply.

15. UNICEF disbursed USD 50,000 to the CMWU in support of their rapid repairs of the water network. UNICEF has also delivered, over 7,000 hygiene kits and over 1,300 water purification tablets. Oxfam and Action Contre La Faim are distributing drinking water to over 30,000 people.

2.6. Shelter and Non-Food Items

16. ICRC reported on 20 January that after the cease-fires were agreed, many people who have not returned had, “checked on their homes, but then decided to return to the UNRWA shelters. They had no other choice.” The total number of those displaced and living with host families remains unknown.

17. On 19 and 20 January, the ICRC, CHF International and Mercy Corps distributed plastic sheeting and tarpaulins to over 800 families. There are continued needs for additional non-food items for those who remain displaced, or for those who are repairing their homes.

2.7. Education

18. The Education Cluster was activated in Gaza on 21 January. Repair of schools damaged during the fighting poses a serious challenge to re-starting classes, which is planned for early February.

3.0 International Assistance and Priority needs

3.1. Funding

19. The Humanitarian Country Team has re-visited projects proposed for the 2009 CAP (which appealed for over USD 462 million) to ensure that the projects, activities and priorities remain relevant to the ongoing emergency and increased the budget to USD 529 million.

20. For a funding update see: appealID=834. This information was compiled by OCHA, based on the information provided by donors and appealing organisations. All humanitarian partners including donors and recipient agencies are encouraged to inform FTS of cash and in-kind contributions to:

3.2. Priority Needs

21. Access: The sustained reopening of all crossings into Gaza is necessary to ensure access. The list of goods allowed into Gaza must be expanded greatly, and must include construction materials, which are necessary for rebuilding critical infrastructure and homes. To deliver lifesaving services, humanitarian workers require unimpeded access into Gaza, including NGO staff.

22. Electricity & Fuel: Hospitals require fuel to run generators on which they rely; water and sanitation facilities require fuel to operate; and households and bakeries require cooking gas.

23. Wheat grain: Wheat grain is urgently needed for local bakeries and for humanitarian food distributions.

24. This situation report, together with further information on ongoing emergencies, is also available on the OCHA Internet website at A copy of the Field Update from the Humanitarian Coordinator for the oPt can be found at:

4.0 Contacts


OCHA Geneva – Humanitarian Affairs Officer
Mr. Peter Neussl
Tel: +41 (0) 22 917 15 11
Email: neussl@un .org

OCHA New York – Desk Officer

Mr. Aurelien Buffler

Tel: +1 347 515 4801

Email: buffler@un .org

Ms. Olivia Tecosky

Tel: +1 212 963 0363


OCHA Geneva – Press Contact
Ms. Elizabeth Byrs
Tel: +41 (0) 22 917 26 53

OCHA New York – Press Contact

Ms. Stephanie Bunker

Tel: +1 917 367 2549


OCHA Office in the occupied Palestinian territory
Mr. Philippe Lazzarini
Tel: +972-2-582-996/ 5853
Ms. Allegra Pacheco
Tel: + 972-2-582-996/ 5853