In 2015, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was able to rapidly and effectively deliver human development and humanitarian assistance by drawing on its operational strengths, in particular its 30,000-strong work force, the majority of whom are Palestine refugees and members of the communities they serve.
The Agency succeeded in educating 500,698 children in 2015/16, providing over 9.1 million primary health-care consultations, social safety net assistance (including cash and food) to 290,967, learning and skills training to 6,855 youth, and microfinance loans to over 38,000 people. Over 36,000 shelters were either rehabilitated or constructed. Emergency humanitarian assistance was provided to over 1.2 million refugees, primarily in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and Syria.
During 2015, Agency-wide, UNRWA continued to foster positive institutional changes and implement comprehensive programme reforms to improve medium-term strategic planning, resource mobilization, accountability, a nd the quality and effectiveness of services provided to Palestine refugees. The Education Reform brought about transformational change to classroom practices and thus improved learning outcomes. Under the Health Reform, the Agency-wide adoption of the Family Health Team approach and the implementation of e-Health contributed to considerable improvements in health care. The Agency also continued to embed gender equality in its core programming and further mainstreamed an effective gender-based violence (GBV) response across all areas of operation. Significant progress was also achieved with regard to the further development of the Agency's policy framework on protection. In addition, UNRWA enhanced operational efficiency through the April 2015 introduction of a new Enterprise Resources Planning system to provide an integrated information structure across the areas of finance, public sector management, supply chain management and human resources.
In Gaza, UNRWA continued to support reconstruction efforts owing to the hostilities in July and August 2014. The Agency estimates a total requirement of US$ 720 million to rebuild over 140,000 damaged or destroyed Palestine refugee homes; however, only US$ 247 million had been pledged by the end of 2015. Within these limits, UNRWA is coordinating reconstruction efforts with other UN agencies, international non-governmental organizations (NG0s) and the National Consensus Government (NCG) to ensure an effective response. The need for accountability to the victims remains unaddressed.
UNRWA continued to provide humanitarian assistance to Palestine refugees in Gaza suffering further displacement because of the hostilities in July and August 2014, including the repair and reconstruction of damaged homes, an activity that gradually increased during the year following an agreement between Israel and the State of Palestine on the importation of certain restricted building materials. During the first half of 2015, the 18,259 internally displaced persons residing in UNRWA collective centres (CCs) gradually moved to alternative accommodation. While the last CC closed on 17 June 2015, at the end of the year an estimated 16,000 families (almost 90,000 individuals) remained displaced.
The Agency continued to invest in education by providing access to over 250,000 students' through 257 schools in Gaza, around 73.9 per cent of which continued to run on a double-shift basis.
In the West Bank, UNRWA provided basic education to 48,884 children and vocational and technical training to an additional 1,773 students. In response to escalating violence during the last quarter of 2015, UNRWA enhanced programmatic interventions, including the provision of psychosocial assistance, to mitigate the effects of the current situation on children and advocacy efforts calling for action to prevent a further escalation of violence. UNRWA continued to provide social safety net support to an average of 36,139 refugees throughout the year in the form of in-kind food assistance; emergency assistance through food vouchers, in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP); and cash-for-work opportunities for over 16,400 other poor households (95,077 individuals). UNRWA also partnered with WFP to provide in-kind food support to 85 vulnerable Bedouin refugee communities, totalling some 32,000 individuals. In addition, 43 health centres (HCs) and health points (HPs) along with six emergency mobile health clinics provided over 1.4 million medical consultations throughout the West Bank.
In Syria, UNRWA maintained its health, education, vocational training, microfinance, youth support and social services, adapting them to the constrained circumstances of armed conflict by utilizing its comprehensive network of staff, facilities and resources. Forty-four UNRWA schools continued to operate, down from 118 prior to the crisis, complemented by 55 afternoon-shift schools hosted in Ministry of Education facilities. In total, 45,541 students were accommodated. Fifteen of the Agency's 23 HCs remained operational, supplemented by an additional 11 health points throughout the country. As of December 2015, nine UNRWA school buildings, the Damascus Training Centre and two other UNRWA installations continued to serve as temporary accommodation for 4,795 internally displaced civilians. In northern Syria, home to some 50,000 Palestine refugees, including the displaced, UNRWA maintained services and humanitarian assistance in the face of incessant armed conflict.
In the midst of funding shortfalls, the Agency was only able to provide refugees with three out of six rounds of cash assistance in Syria, covering just six months of needs. Food assistance covered individual nutritional requirements for only five months. For those refugees able to find employment, the average daily wage was SYP 1,125 (equivalent to US$ 3 as of December 2015). Health, education and other public services have been severely affected by the conflict.
Approximately 80 per cent of Palestine refugees in Syria reside in Damascus, including in areas with restricted humanitarian access. UNRWA sustained regular and emergency operations in most parts of Damascus during 2015. Major difficulties were encountered in reaching refugee communities in Yarmouk, Khan Eshieh, Qudsaya and Ramadan. UNRWA aid deliveries to Yarmouk were halted in April due to the capture of the area by extremist armed groups, while access to adjacent areas was suspended on 23 September. In July, over 6,000 Palestine refugee families were able to return to Husseiniyeh after being displaced for over two years. UNRWA successfully resumed all services in Husseiniyeh, reopening the HC, the community
centre and four schools serving over 3,300 students, some of whom had missed out on over two years of education. In the central area, UNRWA services to Palestine refugees in Homs, Hama and Latakia remained fully operational, with humanitarian assistance regularly supplied from Damascus.
A majority of the 458,369 registered Palestine refugees in Lebanon depend on UNRWA service provision as, through either law or practice, they are effectively denied access to most public services. In addition, 41,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS) in Lebanon are particularly vulnerable given border restrictions, precarious legal status, difficulties in regularizing their stay and limited social protection services. An estimated 93 per cent of PRS were dependent on UNRWA for a broad range of regular and humanitarian assistance.
In 2015, UNRWA operations in Lebanon provided critical basic services to Palestine refugees, including the provision of basic education to 32,181 students; primary health-care services through 27 HCs; and referrals to child protection, gender-based violence (GBV) and psychosocial support services. Social safety net support was provided to 61,709 poor refugees, as well as access to microcredit initiatives and vocational training opportunities for 1,100 people. UNRWA supported refugee employability through targeted vocational training and advocacy with stakeholders to promote employment. Further support was extended through the provision of potable water for camp inhabitants and the rehabilitation of 430 shelters. PRS were also supported through access to UNRWA health and education services and direct humanitarian assistance.
An average of 41,882 PRS individuals received cash for food assistance under an UNRWA/WFP partnership, while 11,748 families received housing assistance for six months and 10,735 received critical winterization assistance. UNRWA also supported responses to displacement caused by violent confrontations in Ein El Hjlweh in mid-2015 and made progress in addressing challenges in the reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared Camp (NBC), ensuring that in total at least 50 per cent of the refugees could re-establish residence. UNRWA has, as a matter of priority, continued to seek urgently needed support to finalize construction work and assist displaced refugees.
In Jordan, UNRWA services continued to contribute to the human development of refugees in 2015 through the provision of basic education to some 119,606 children, including 1,468 PRS; the provision of higher education to 1,213 students; and technical and vocational training for 2,246 youth. Twenty-five HCs and one local health-oriented non-governmental organization provided 1,598,989 primary health-care consultations. Social safety net support was afforded to 58,937 special hardship cases. Regular cash assistance – for food and non-food items was provided to meet critical PRS family needs; however, due to funding constraints, it was not possible to offer winterization and shelter assistance. Access to microcredit initiatives was extended to 7,065 refugees. A total of 133 of the poorest refugee families benefited through shelter rehabilitation assistance.