Ongoing Displacement

In June 2009, Save the Children UK completed a research study on the pressures and impacts associated with forced displacement in high risk areas[1] of the occupied Palestinian territory.

Key Findings

  • Areas identified by the international community as high risk are significantly poorer, more marginalized and less protected than the general population.
  • At least 49% of respondents living in or near Gaza’s buffer zone or in West Bank areas under complete Israeli control (Area C) say they have been displaced at least once since 2000, compared with 15% among the general population in the OPT. Families that have been displaced fare significantly worse in terms of living conditions, socioeconomic impacts and psychosocial well-being than they did before their displacement, regardless of the reason why they were displaced.
  • In high risk areas, house demolitions and the loss of income and sources of livelihoods are common triggers for the displacement of families. In the West Bank, families in high risk areas also faced forced evictions, land confiscation threats and lack of access to essential services, making them vulnerable to displacement. In the Gaza buffer zone areas, concerns for personal security and safety have caused families to move away from their communities.
  • 78% of displaced families said they wanted to return to their homes.
  • International organizations are not reaching those most in need of assistance, particularly in high risk areas in the West Bank. More than half of households surveyed in high risk areas in the West Bank said that humanitarian assistance from local and international organizations is ‘not available,’ in contrast with the approximately 8% in Gaza high risk areas who said that humanitarian assistance was ‘not available.’
  • Families who most need legal support are not getting it. The majority of families both in high risk areas and in the general population did not access legal services or support after receiving a house demolition or land confiscation order.

2

Recommendations

  • We are calling on the humanitarian community, development agencies, Palestinian civil society, and the Palestinian Authority to do more to advocate for and assist families living in high risk areas. We recommend that they:
  • Develop a comprehensive, coordinated inter-agency response to prevent displacement and provide protection for those who have been displaced or are at-risk of displacement with a special focus on the particular needs and vulnerabilities of children.
  • Develop services and strengthen livelihoods in Area C of the West Bank.
  • Provide agricultural support and land rehabilitation in the Gaza buffer zone to improve the food security and general economic well-being of residents.
  • Strengthen and expand the work of legal advocacy organizations.

The State of Israel should:

  • Halt the demolition of Palestinian homes and land confiscation and other related policies that result in displacement.
  • Clearly define a policy for the Gaza buffer zone that is in line with its international legal obligations related to the protection of civilians under occupation.

Background

Increasing numbers of families living in high risk areas of the occupiedPalestinian territory (OPT) are being forcibly displaced as a result offorced evictions, house demolitions, land confiscation and military operations.Other related factors such as loss of livelihoods, lack of accessto essential services, and concerns for personal safety and security alsopressure families to leave their homes.

Save the Children UK has implemented the project Prevention andprotection – a programmatic response to forced displacement in the OPT,together with its local partner MA’AN Development Center, with fundingprovided by the Humanitarian Aid department of the EuropeanCommission (ECHO).

As part of this project, in June 2009, Save the Children UK conducted adetailed study through Near East Consulting (NEC) of living conditionsin high risk areas, focusing in particular on the pressures and impactsassociated with forced displacement in both the West Bank and Gaza[2],excluding East Jerusalem.[3] The survey included 1,057 individuals in randomlyselected locations throughout the West Bank and Gaza to providea general baseline sample. A total of 472 random interviews werealso conducted in locations where people were at high risk of displacement,defined as Area C locations in the West Bank and locations nearor adjacent to the Gaza buffer zone, a closed military area around thefull perimeter of Gaza.

Profile of High Risk Areas: Living Conditions andSocio-economic Status

The research highlighted the striking vulnerabilities of families living in highrisk areas with regards to their housing conditions, access to basic services,socio-economic status and their psychosocial well-being. Approximatelyhalf of the surveyed families had been displaced at least once since 2000.

Housing Conditions and Ownership of Land

  •  Most families living in high risk areas in the OPT own land and rely on agriculture for their livelihood. In the West Bank, land confiscation and movement and access restrictions as a result of checkpoints and the Separation Wall have threatened their livelihoods. In Gaza, the dangers associated with accessing land located adjacent to or within the buffer zone have similarly threatened livelihoods. Housing conditions for families were poor, especially near the Gaza buffer zone where over onethird of families were either living in a partially destroyed house or next to their destroyed house.
  • In the areas in or near the Gaza buffer zone, 22% of respondents were living in a partially destroyed house and 12% in a tent over the rubble of their damaged house.
  • In the West Bank, 15% of respondents in high risk areas identified inadequate shelter as a reason for changing their residence either permanently or temporarily since the year 2000.
  • 51% of the population in high risk areas own land, and a high percentage rely on it for their livelihoods (see below).
  • 29% of high risk area respondents said that they have received land confiscation orders since 1993, compared with 9% in the rest of the OPT. In the West Bank alone, 39% of respondents said they had received land confiscation orders since 1993.
  • In the West Bank, 58% of families in high risk areas own land. 50% of households in high risk areas stated that their land was located behind the Separation Wall; 68% cannot access their land as a result.
  • Movement restrictions and checkpoints also restricted respondents’ ability to market agricultural goods with 96% of surveyed respondents in high risk areas stating they either faced difficulty marketing goods or could not market their goods at all.

In Gaza, 42% of families in high risk areas own land. 30% of households in high risk areas stated that their land was located within the buffer zone; 55% cannot access their land as a result.

  • 88% of households surveyed in areas near the buffer zone either faced difficulty marketing goods or could not market their goods at all.

Availability of basic needs and services

Families living in high risk areas have less access to basic needs and servicescompared with the general population. In the West Bank, servicessuch as education, health, and water and sanitation were less available tofamilies than in areas near the Gaza buffer zone.

  • 37% of respondents from high risk areas said they have sufficient food, compared with 70% among the general population in the OPT.
  • In the West Bank, 92% of households in high risk areas said that health services were either ‘not available’ or ‘somewhat available[4]’ compared with 34% among the general West Bank population.
  • In Gaza, 65% of respondents in high risk areas said that health services were ‘not available’ or ‘somewhat available’ compared with 41% among the general Gaza population.
  • 2% of households in high risk areas in the West Bank have access to sanitation services, in comparison with 61% among the general West Bank population.
  • 26% in high risk areas in Gaza report access to sanitation services, compared to 60% for the rest of Gaza.
  • 45% of respondents in high risk areas said that education services were ‘available’ and 50% responded ‘somewhat available’ compared with 62% and 30% respectively among the general population.

Income/ Poverty and Livelihood

Many families living in high risk areas in the West Bank and Gaza have losttheir sources of livelihood since 2000 and face increasing poverty as a result.While families in Gaza have relied on the availability of humanitarianassistance and charities to cushion the impacts, these forms of assistancehave been less available to marginalized families in the West Bank.

  • Roughly 70% of respondents in high risk areas live below the povertyline[5] compared with 35% among the general population in the OPT.
  • 34% of surveyed households in high risk areas rely on agriculture andherding activities as a first source of income, most on land that they own.
  • 45% of breadwinners in high risk areas in the West Bank and Gazahave lost their job or sources of livelihood since 2000.
  • In Gaza, humanitarian assistance provided by UNRWA and charitiesmade up a significant source of income for high risk households at52% and 27% respectively.
  • In the West Bank high risk areas, humanitarian assistance is not availablefor most families with only 12% receiving assistance from eitherUNRWA or charities as a source of income.
  • In the West Bank high risk areas, 10% of respondents felt they weresecure economically, compared to 36% of the general West Bank population.

Security/ Protection and Psychosocial Well-Being

Lack of personal security as a result of the Israeli occupation is a majorconcern for families living in high risk areas in the OPT. The populationin high risk areas also experience higher rates of depression than amongthe general population in the OPT.

  • More than half of respondents living in high risk areas said that theydid not feel secure in their area of residence while 29% felt onlysomewhat secure. The main reason cited (68%) was the policies ofthe Israeli occupation.
  • 75% of the respondents in the high risk areas report feeling depressedcompared with 56% of the general population.

Displacement Triggers

This section outlines the triggers or factors that have caused displacementamong the families surveyed. Common reasons for displacement inthe West Bank and Gaza include house demolition and loss of income orsources of livelihood. In the West Bank, land confiscation or eviction orders, and lack of available services were also significant causes of forceddisplacement. In Gaza, concern for personal security caused families to be displaced.

  • 49% of respondents in high risk areas have either been temporarily or permanently displaced at least once since the year 2000.
  • In the West Bank, the main reasons for displacement were Israeli orders (31%), house demolition (23%) and inadequate shelter[6] (15%).
  • In Gaza, the main factors behind displacement were house demolition (48%) and a lack of personal security (28%).
  • 23% of respondents in high risk areas have had their houses threatened with demolition since 1993 compared with 8% for the rest of the OPT.
  • 38% of households in high risk areas changed their place of residence following loss of their job/source of income. An additional 41% of respondents had thought about changing their residence for the same reason but could not.
  • 29% of respondents in high risk areas would like to move to a new residence. In the West Bank, the main reason cited was lack of access to services (36%). In Gaza, respondents cited concerns for personal security (42%) as the primary reason.

Coping / Response Strategies

Families, in particular in the West Bank, face worsening conditions after adisplacement event regardless of the reason. Coping strategies – such asreceiving assistance from organizations, reliance on social support networks,and selling property or belongings – are used more extensively inhigh risk areas compared with the rest of the OPT. However, in high riskareas, coping strategies are either dwindling or are not available.

  • 51% of households surveyed in high risk areas in the West Bank said that assistance from local and international organization is ‘not available’ whereas approximately 8% of households in high risk areas inGaza said that assistance was ‘not available.’
  • 62% of families displaced in the West Bank said that the availability of water was worse[7] after their displacement compared with 15% in Gaza. In terms of health and education services, in the West Bank,57% and 42% of respondents said access to services were worse followingdisplacement compared with 20% and 7% in Gaza respectively.
  • 40% of respondents from high risk areas in the West Bank have sent their children to work at least a few times and about 75% have reduced their standards of living in order to cope with their situation.
  • Most families who have been threatened with demolition (65%) or land confiscation orders (79%) did not receive legal assistance because they did not know how to access assistance (48%) or they lost hope (46%). When legal assistance was sought and received, the Palestinian Authority provided most of the legal assistance in the West Bank (45%) while international organizations provided the most support in Gaza (38%).

Suggested Response

Based on the research findings and experience from the forced displacementproject funded by the Humanitarian Aid department of the EuropeanCommission, and in line with the UN Guiding Principles on InternalDisplacement, Save the Children UK recommends a comprehensive,coordinated inter-agency response to forced displacement in the OPTwhich includes the following four components:

Prevention: infrastructure and livelihoods support, health and educationservices, vocational training and capacity building, formation ofCommunity Protection Committees, legal aid, psychosocial supportand advocacy.

Emergency response: shelter, livestock, water and food provisions,family reunification, legal aid,provision of educational and child recreationalkits and mother-and-child psychosocial support; remedialeducation support, host family support and registration.

Rehabilitation: shelter, livelihoods support, vocational and technicaltraining, counselling andpsychosocial care, remedial education support,host family support, identification of long-term solutions, andadvocacy.

Durable solutions: return to original location of residence, restitution,compensation, or integration.

Children in high risk communities need and deserve special attention, especially following a displacement event. Save the Children UK recommends the following child-focused response:

  •  Prevention: improvement of infrastructure related to education and health access including support for transportation to schools, child participation in Community Protection Committees, dissemination ofchild rights information, livelihoods programming, psychosocial supportand advocacy.
  • Emergency response: provision of educational supplies and recreationalkits, psychosocial support.
  • Rehabilitation: counselling, educational support or tutoring, safe playactivities, vocational and technical training for youth, youth-focusedempowerment activities.
  • Durable solutions: participation in decision making around longterm solutions for the family or community.

In the West Bank, families experienced longer periods ofdisplacement (more than one year) and moved furtheraway from their communities compared with families inGaza[8]. Although they face deteriorating socio-economicconditions and less access to services, over half say thathumanitarian assistance is not available to them.In Gaza, although military incursions cause displacementon a large scale, families frequently move back totheir communities once calm prevails. Although assistanceis more available to families in Gaza, loss of livelihoods and ongoing protection concerns as a result ofIsrael’s current buffer zone policy makes this populationespecially vulnerable to increased and long-term relianceon humanitarian aid.

Impacts on children

Education:

  • In high risk areas, 45% of respondents said that education serviceswere ‘available’ and 50% responded ‘somewhat available’compared with 62% and 30% respectively among the generalpopulation.
  • 20% of respondents in high risk areas stated that the availabilityof education services was ‘worse’ following a displacement eventcompared with the majority of respondents who stated therewas ‘no change.’
  • House demolition has been identified as the most common displacementtrigger for families living in high risk areas in the OPT.Following a house demolition, Save the Children’s research[9] hasshown a decline in children’s educational achievement and abilityto study.

Poverty:

  • 33% of respondents from high risk areas in the West Bank andGaza have sent their children to work at least a few times as ameans of maintaining living standards following a displacementevent.

Psychosocial status:

  • 75% of the respondents in the high risk areas report feeling depressedcompared with 56% of the general population.
  • The psychological state of parents has a major impact on thechildren’s mental health, especially for children under 12 years[10].
  • Children whose houses have been demolished show a declinein their mental health, suffering classic signs of trauma, becomingwithdrawn, depressed and anxious[11].

EUROPEANCOMMISSION

Humanitarian Aid

This document has been produced with the

financial assistance of the European Commission.

The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way,

to reflect the official opinion of the European Commission.

 

Save the Children UK

P.O. Box: 18117, Jerusalem 91180

Telephone: 00972-2-5838594

Fax: 00972-2-5838595

www.savethechildren.org.uk

Designed by: Marwan Hamad, www.intertech.ps, Ramallah

 


Footnotes:

  1. High risk areas are those locations in the West Bank under complete Israeli control (Area C under the Oslo Accords) and locations near or adjacent to the border areas in Gaza known as the buffer zone. Approximately 61% of the West Bank is classified as Area C.
  2. In Gaza, includes 240 households living in the following areas near the buffer zone: North Gaza: BeitHanoun, east of BeitLahiya, Al Saifa, Al ‘Atatrah, Eastern cemetery area; Gaza City: east of Ash Shujaiyeh,Karni Crossing area, Nahal Oz Crossing area; Middle area: Johr al Deek area, east of Bureij refugee camp,east of Maghazi refugee camp; Khan Younis: Abasan al Kabira, Abasan al Saghira, Khoza'a; Rafah: Shoka,Gaza airport surroundings, Philadelphi Corridor. In the West Bank, includes 232 households living in thefollowing Area C locations: Tulkarm: Al Jarushiya; Qalqiliya: Habla, Beit Amin, Izbat at-Tabib; Ramallah: BeitHoron; Hebron: ArRamadin, Khirbet Zanuta, At Tuwani, Qawawis; Bethlehem: Al Khas, Khallet an Nu'man;Jericho: Al Jiftlik; Tubas: Tammun
  3. While it is important to note that displacement risks are high and house demolitions and forced evictionsare all too common in East Jerusalem, the decision to exclude the area from this study is based on theunique nature of the situation stemming from the different policy and legal issues that lead to displacementin East Jerusalem as compared to the rest of the OPT.
  4. Respondents were asked to choose from the following: ‘available,’ ‘somewhat available’ or ‘not available.’Somewhat available means only partially available.
  5. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) has set the poverty line at 2,200 NIS (583 USD) permonth for a family of two adults and four children.
  6. Also includes, for example, lack of electricity, running water and sewage network in the house.
  7. Respondents were asked to choose from the following: ‘better than before,’ ‘no change’ or ‘worse from before.’
  8. 68% of displaced families in high risk areas in the West Bank were displaced for more than one yearcompared with 38% of displaced families in Gaza high risk areas. 23% of displaced families in West Bankhigh risk areas moved to a different governorate compared with 4% of displaced families in Gaza high risk areas. In contrast, 8% of displaced families from high risk areas in the West Bank moved to a new residence within the same district compared with 27% of displaced families from Gaza high risk areas.
  9. Save the Children UK, Broken Homes: Addressing the Impact of House Demolitions on Palestinian Childrenand Families, June 2009.
  10. See Save the Children UK ‘Broken Homes’ report.
  11. Ibid.