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occupied Palestinian territory

Emergency Response (OCHA Humanitarian Update)

                                                           A boy among the rubble after a nearby airstrike in Gaza, October 2023. Photo: WFP                    

 

 

Continuous explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) support to enable the entire humanitarian response in Gaza to proceed without ERW accidents:

  • Explosive ordnance risk assessments of UN infrastructure, mostly UNRWA installations sheltering approximately 1.4 million displaced people, and hospitals
  • convoy safety for the delivery of critical humanitarian assistance including the distribution of essential food and medical supplies and safe evacuation of patients

 

 

Approximately 1.2 million Gazans and 980,000 people in the West Bank reached through digital explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) messages including conflict preparedness and protection (CPP) measures to reduce the risk of death and injury during bombardment.

100 UNRWA protection focal points in Khan Younis and Rafah trained as EORE trainers to train people in UNRWA’s southern shelters as EORE educators

EORE posters distributed to shelters

EORE messages integrated into aid delivery such as EORE stickers on WFP food packaging

Coordination

Daily emergency coordination with UN entities and NGO partners

 

UNMAS explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and risk education specialists have been working in the State of Palestine including Gaza since 2009 and before the attack on Israel on 7 October 2023.

Gaza: The subsequent fighting and the use of heavy munitions in the densely populated Gaza Strip continue to cause massive loss of life and unprecedented devastation of civil infrastructure. An extraordinary volume of explosive remnants of war (ERW) is expected to contaminate civilian areas including residential neighbourhoods, threatens lives and impedes the safe delivery of emergency and humanitarian assistance.

 “Explosive remnants of war are rendering areas uninhabitable.

UN Secretary-General Guterres on Gaza in his letter to the Security Council, 6 December 2023 (S/2023/962).

 

West Bank: Escalating fighting across all governorates of the West Bank since 7 October 2023 has also been creating additional ERW contamination which threatens the lives of civilians. The contamination in the West Bank is deemed much less than in Gaza; however, the level of contamination needs to be assessed and the Palestinian Authority (PA) requires assistance in its response.

Activities                                

1. SUPPORT TO HUMANITARIAN AID DELIVERY

UNMAS Palestine launched its emergency support to UN and humanitarian partner organizations to enable the entire humanitarian response in Gaza to proceed without ERW accidents: Delivery of desperately needed food and fuel supplies to the people in need, to internally displaced people (IDP) shelters, hospitals, water supply points and sanitation facilities, since the fighting began in early October.

2. PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS

UNMAS also launched a digital emergency explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) campaign via social media and short messages services (SMS). The campaign reached approximately 1.2 million Gazans in all governorates of the Gaza Strip and 980,000 people in the West Bank with messages promoting safe behaviour to mitigate the risk of death or injury posed by explosive ordnance, as well as tips on conflict preparedness and protection (CPP) measures to reduce the risk of death and injury during bombardment. UNMAS also delivered two short training-of-trainers sessions on EORE to 100 UNRWA protection focal points in Khan Younis and Rafah to then train people in UNRWA’s southern shelters. UNMAS, UNICEF and other UN entities and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners are coordinating closely to continue to deliver EORE, including CPP activities.  For example, EORE messages have been integrated into the delivery of aid, such as on food items distributed through WFP. This ensures that vital safety information reaches recipients as an integral part of humanitarian assistance.   

In the West Bank, UNMAS supports the local authorities to fulfil their obligations under the relevant international treaties. In this regard, UNMAS continues to provide capacity building to the Palestinian Mine Action Centre to enhance the delivery of EORE to at-risk communities, improve mine action data management and develop an inclusive victims support strategy.

3. COORDINATION

UNMAS coordinates with all UN entities and NGO partners involved in the humanitarian response in Gaza and provides EOD services in line with humanitarian priorities. Within the Protection Cluster, UNMAS and NGO Humanity & Inclusion (HI) lead the Mine Action Area of Responsibility, coordinating all UN entities and NGOs to ensure beneficiaries receive timely and targeted support.

4. PLANNING AHEAD

The unprecedented scale of the surface and buried ERW contamination will require action on an unprecedented level. In anticipation, UNMAS is increasing its capacity and raising funds.

Immediately following the end of fighting, the following interventions will be critical to facilitate the safe movement and return of civilians, to enable humanitarian entities to ensure that hospitals, shelters, food distribution points and critical infrastructure (such as desalination plants) are safe to use, and to clear ERW and address the possible presence of improvised explosive devices (IEDs):

  • Survey to determine the extent of explosive ordnance contamination to guide others to navigate around explosive hazards, and to plan of the clearance of hazards;

  • Clearance of explosive ordnance;

  • Continued ERW risk assessments of UN and other humanitarian infrastructure;

  • Technical advice to humanitarian organizations and humanitarian personnel on the risks of ERW;

  • Expanded EORE to reach IDPs, vulnerable groups like persons with disabilities and children, rubble removal workers and humanitarian personnel to mitigate death and injury from ERW. 

  • Expanded coordination to coordinate the additional capacity and clearance work and ensure that the highest priority needs of the humanitarian agencies are met on a timely basis, and to develop a quality assurance capacity to oversee operations and ensure that clearance is conducted to international standards.    

Eventual recovery and reconstruction will necessitate a substantial clearance capacity to render land safe for use and to clear construction sites ahead of reconstruction work. Explosive ordnance will have to be cleared from sites piled high with rubble to facilitate safe rubble removal.

 

UNMAS seeks to raise US$ 45.6 million for the coming 18 months to expand its operations urgently to respond to the exponentially increased need, including EOD, risk assessments, EORE and CPP, and maintain the needed support to the national authorities in the West Bank.

Data: January 2024

 

                                                                                     

On-going work

IMPACT

 
  • 1,425 site-specific risk assessments and continuous on-site explosive remnants of war (ERW) safety training and quality assurance allowed the removal of over 1 million tons of rubble from heavily contaminated areas and the construction of infrastructure to proceed without an ERW accident since 2014, enabling UNDP, UNOPS, and UNRWA’s reconstruction projects to proceed.

 

  • ERW risk assessments, quality assurance, and 24/7 explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) enabled the safe delivery by partner agencies of 817 reconstruction projects valued at millions of US dollars, including roads, public facilities, public parks, water wells, desalination plants, and other infrastructure, within municipalities across Gaza.

 

  • Following the conflicts of May 2021, August 2022, and May 2023, 21 deep buried bomb (DBB) sites were located and 18 of these sites have been declared safe.

 

  • More than 200 UN and humanitarian partner organizations personnel were trained on the delivery of child-friendly EORE to deliver risk education messages to their projects' beneficiaries. 

 

  • Over 250,000 civilians in at-risk communities including internally displaced persons (IDPs), engineers, construction workers, fisherpeople from different age and gender groups, as well as UN staff and humanitarian workers, have been trained by UNMAS to identify and safely respond to ERW contamination in Gaza and West Bank.

 

  • Over 115,000 children living in the at-risk areas in the West Bank,  East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip received child-friendly explosive ordnance risk education (EORE).

 

  • Approximately one million civilians in the Gaza Strip received EORE messages through the emergency digital EORE campaign implemented during the May 2023 escalation.

 

  • Over 345,000 civilians in the West Bank received EORE messages through the emergency digital EORE campaign implemented immediately after the July 2023 conflict in the refugee camp of Jenin.
 

ABOUT

 

UNMAS intervention in Gaza reduces the threat and impact of existing ERW and mitigates the impact of future conflicts on Gaza communities by addressing the following: (i) improved human security by mitigating threat of current and future ERW threats; (ii) support to reconstruction through ERW risk mitigation measures and EOD support; and, (iii) emergency preparedness measures.

 

In the West Bank, UNMAS provides capacity building to the Palestinian Mine Action Centre (PMAC) to enhance the delivery of EORE to the at-risk communities, improve mine action data management, develop an inclusive victims support strategy, and others. UNMAS does so to enhance the local authorities’ ability to fulfil its obligations under the relevant international treaties.


ACTIVITIES


Improved Human Security

 

Since the 2014 conflict and the more recent ones in 2021, 2022 and 2023, UNMAS has provided over 16,800 training sessions to enable more than 242,500 UN staff, humanitarian workers, IDPs, engineers, construction workers, and other at-risk populations, including 106,579 children, to identify and safely respond to ERW contamination in Gaza. In line with a focus on emergency response, UNMAS also delivers conflict preparedness and protection (CPP) with an emphasis on empowering women to ensure their communities have the skills to mitigate the impact of hostilities and bolster their resilience. Within the Protection Cluster (PC), UNMAS leads the Mine Action Area of Responsibility, coordinating all non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and UN entities to ensure beneficiaries receive timely and targeted support.

At times of escalations, UNMAS swiftly launches EORE and CPP campaigns to alert the local communities on how to identify and mitigate the threats of explosive hazards and adopt measures to enhance safety and security. During the escalation in May 2023, UNMAS emergency EORE and CPP messages reached approximately one million Gazans through mass media, including social platforms and radio channels. UNMAS also deployed its operations team to provide rapid EOD response as requested by UN and humanitarian organizations.

In the West Bank, UNMAS supports the local authorities to fulfil their obligations under the relevant international treaties. In 2023, UNMAS delivered training to the PMAC to improve the delivery of EORE to the at-risk population. UNMAS also delivered EORE to 8,458 children living in at-risk communities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem through child-friendly modalities including puppet shows,  stories and games.

After the July 2023 conflict in Jenin Camp in the West Bank, UNMAS launched an emergency digital EORE campaign targeting the civilian community in the  camp and surrounding areas. The EORE messages have reached more than 345,000 people. UNMAS also carried out an explosive threat assessment to conceptualise the necessary mine action intervention in the ERW contaminated areas in the camp.

 


Support to Reconstruction


As the suspected presence of ERW impedes rubble removal and reconstruction of vital housing and infrastructure, UNMAS delivers an ERW risk mitigation process through on-site ERW training sessions, quality assurance, risk assessments, and direct EOD support to rubble removal, reconstruction, and infrastructure projects. Following the May 2021, August 2022 and May 2023 escalations, UNMAS conducted 317 risk assessments for UNDP, UNOPS, UNRWA and other agencies for reconstruction projects, roads, public facilities, wastewater treatment plants, desalination plants, electricity networks, housing for IDPs, and other infrastructure sites across Gaza. UNMAS continues to provide excavation and clearance of DBB including the 21 DBB sites identified after May 2021, which can contain a large amount of explosives and pose a serious threat to the people living nearby.


Emergency Preparedness


In Gaza since 2014, 278 people have been killed or injured by ERW, over 77% of whom were men and boys. The UNMAS strategy in Gaza is to be ready for a rapid response during potential conflict and to maintain emergency preparedness measures that are in accordance with the contingency planning of UN partners This includes having EOD expertise ready to remove and dispose of  new and existing contamination which poses a threat to the UN and civilians.

 

FUNDING

 

By the beginning of August 2023, UNMAS transitioned to the emergency preparedness stage, downscaling its capacity to a small team in Gaza and the West Bank. UNMAS current capacity is funded until January 2024 and is seeking sustainable funding beyond that to provide: emergency EOD in Gaza; EORE and CPP prior, during, and after escalations; ERW risk assessments to support infrastructure development projects, and maintain the needed support to the national authorities in the West Bank.

 

Data as of September 2023