Analysis of the context, crisis and needs
The occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) remains a protracted protection crisis, where too many men, women, boys and girls struggle to live in dignity, with constrained access to basic services. The crisis is characterized by 54 years of military occupation, insufficient respect for international humanitarian and human rights law, internal Palestinian political divisions, and recurrent escalations of hostilities between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups.
In Gaza, the humanitarian situation deteriorated in 2021, with the most intense escalation of hostilities since 2014. Beyond the human toll, the 11-day conflict in May aggravated chronic shelter and infrastructure needs. According to the oPt 2021 Multisectoral Needs Analysis (MSNA), the conflict affected the livelihoods or assets of half of the households in Gaza, including some 8,250 people who remain displaced as a result of the escalation. At the same time, the humanitarian needs in all sectors persist, with the blockade on Gaza by Israeli authorities who cite security concerns, entering its fifteenth year.
In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, 2021 witnessed a spike in Palestinian casualties by Israeli forces, raising concerns about excessive use of force. Attacks on Palestinians and their property by those known or believed to be Israeli settlers has increased. Threats of forced evictions in East Jerusalem and demolitions or seizures of structures and property by the Israeli authorities in Area C and East Jerusalem has also increased, with several significant mass demolitions recorded. Many of these and other Israeli practices in the West Bank including East Jerusalem are linked to the presence of Israeli settlements, which intensifies the coercive environment on vulnerable communities, accentuating the risk of forcible transfer.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has also intensified, with a third wave underway in Gaza and a fourth in the West Bank, burdening the already-stretched health-care system and increasing poverty levels. The pandemic is also intensifying needs and vulnerabilities, with 62 per cent of households in the oPt reporting that their monthly income had decreased as a result of COVID-19.
The Fatah-Hamas divide remains unresolved, undermining basic services in Gaza. Humanitarian response in Gaza was at times restricted by Hamas. In the West Bank, the killing of a prominent Palestinian critic of the Government in June and the subsequent use of force against those protesting the incident has raised concerns of heightened human rights abuses by the Palestinian Authority.
The Israeli authorities maintained physical, administrative and laws or military orders which can in effect limit humanitarian programming. Despite current financial constraints, UNRWA has continued providing basic services at scale for Palestinian refugees both in Gaza and the West Bank including East Jerusalem from its own Programme Budget which is supported by voluntary contributions.
Projected situation in 2022 and beyond
Notwithstanding the ceasefire in May, there were no political advances or major improvements on the ground in 2021. The drivers of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza remain. In the absence of a political process, improvements are not expected in 2022, increasing the risk of additional escalations.
In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, levels of Palestinian casualties, settler violence and demolitions have increased. In East Jerusalem, nearly 1,000 Palestinians also face the threat of forced eviction by the Israeli authorities, largely due to court cases initiated by settler organisations. Together with the financial uncertainty of both UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority, these factors could lead to further destabilization, potentially expanding to Gaza, as was the case in 2021.
The key drivers of the humanitarian crisis combined with COVID-19, have deepened the vulnerability of Palestinians and in turn have increased the demand for humanitarian assistance across the oPt, a trend likely to continue in 2022. Overall, 2.1 million Palestinians, 1.3 million in Gaza and 750,000 in West Bank, will need assistance in 2022. Some 63 per cent of all Gaza residents, and 23 per cent of those in the West Bank require humanitarian assistance. Needs related to living standards contribute to 64 per cent of the PIN, followed by those related to physical and psychological well-being (19 per cent) and coping mechanisms (17 per cent). A deterioration in livelihoods conditions is spurring an increase in cash and voucher assistance.
Throughout the oPt, the most vulnerable people are those living below the poverty line (1.4 million - World Bank 2020. Estimate for 2021 following May escalation project poverty increase in Gaza from 57.2 to 59.4 per cent): refugees, female-headed households, small-scale farmers, people with disabilities and those who were displaced as a result of their homes being entirely demolished or damaged due to the May 2021 escalation.
Response priorities in 2022
In 2021, humanitarian partners aimed to reach 1.8 million Palestinians with assistance through the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP). As of August, partners had reached 1.15 million people, i.e. 64 per cent of people targeted are estimated to have received humanitarian assistance.
Key achievements included: legal aid services enabled nearly 80 per cent of targeted households facing demolition and eviction orders to delay the implementation of the order; more than 30,000 IDPs received emergency shelter support during and after the escalation of hostilities; 277,988 students (138,230 girls) benefited from emergency educational supplies; some 27,000 patients received front-line emergency and trauma hospital care, exceeding the target of 23,000 patients; 98 per cent of those targeted for food and cash assistance were reached and access to WASH services improved for more than 300,000 people.
The 2022 plan is based on the assumption that the delivery of UNRWA services and assistance under its Programme Budget will continue across the oPt. Any reduction in this assistance would significantly impact all assumptions of humanitarian needs in Gaza and West Bank, including East Jerusalem upon which the HRP is based.
In 2022, an estimated 2.1 million Palestinians across the oPt will require humanitarian assistance; 64 per cent of whom live in Gaza. The refined targeting methodology used for 2022 has slightly reduced the PiN compared to 2021, but the severity of vulnerabilities to be addressed have significantly increased due to the deterioration of the socio-economic situation on the ground impacted by COVID-19 and further exacerbated by the escalation of hostilities and unrest across the oPt in May 2021.
Of the total number of people in need, humanitarian partners will aim to assist the most vulnerable (1.6 million people), with a financial requirement of US$510 million. People’s needs will be addressed through multisector efforts - to protect the rights of Palestinians living under occupation, provide access to essential services for the most vulnerable, and support their ability to cope with the effects of the crisis while more sustainable solutions are sought through a nexus approach and the development of the first Sustainable Development Cooperative Framework. The 2022 HRP will maintain the centrality of protection in delivering humanitarian response.