The blockade on Gaza, now in its tenth year, has created extremely high unemployment and aid dependency rates in Gaza: in 2016, over 80 per cent of the population depend on humanitarian assistance. Unemployment in the second quarter of 2016 stood at an average of 41 per cent and youth unemployment at 57.6 per cent, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
Through its Job Creation Programme (JCP), UNRWA addresses these dire economic prospects and provides a source of income, dignity, self-respect and self-reliance for Palestine refugee families.
In the first four months of 2016, UNRWA created skilled and unskilled job opportunities for 8,387 beneficiaries through the JCP, injecting US$ 4.54 million into the Gaza economy.
If sufficient funding is made available, in 2016 UNRWA plans to offer short-term employment opportunities for approximately 45,900 Palestine refugees living below the poverty line – less than US$ 3.87 per person per day.
In addition to being an effective means to provide livelihood opportunities to people in Gaza, the JCP supports communities, injects cash into the local economy and helps stabilize struggling businesses.
Overall in 2015, UNRWA created job opportunities for 32,000 beneficiaries through the JCP, injecting approximately US$ 27.1 million into the Gaza economy.
This is a marked increase from 2001, when the JCP was first launched and UNRWA created job opportunities for 10,913 beneficiaries, injecting US$ 7.9 million into the local market.
Through her job opportunity as a packaging labourer in the UNRWA Distribution Centre in Beach camp, western Gaza city, 55-year old Ammna Al Najjar has become the main supporter of herself, her husband and the five children of one of her sons who was killed in the 2008/09 conflict in Gaza.
“I use the money I earn here to pay for the education of the children of my dead son; it is the best investment ever. I will also buy them new clothes for when they go back to school in about two weeks,” Ammna said, proudly. “Because I work here, I feel more engaged in the community. I am able to go out of the house with a purpose, and I made new friends and got to know new people.”
26-year-old Ahmad Mahani earned a decree in physiotherapy in 2013. Despite being one of the best in his class, he wasn’t able to find a job. Three months ago he started his JCP opportunity as physiotherapist in the UNRWA Rimal Health Centre, enabling him to cover some of the needs of his wife and young child.
“This is my first job, and the first time I gained real work experience,” he said. “Besides learning a lot and working with new equipment I didn’t know before, I became more independent. Now, I don’t have to depend on the support of my father, and this makes me proud.”
Ahmad’s patients are happy with therapy and support he provides them. “Ahmad helped reduce my back pain; before I could hardly walk, but now I feel much better,” said Abed Al Rahman Jarada who comes to physiotherapy in the Rimal Health Centre three times per week.
“As a young woman, the most important thing right now for me is to invest in myself, which I do by using my salary from this work opportunity to pay for my Master’s degree in mental health,” said 27-year-old Ansam Al Hamamy.
Through JCP Ansam was able to work in the Right of Life organization, which promotes the rights and inclusion of persons with Down Syndrome into society. Ansam works as a physiotherapist, and it is the first time she came in contact and worked directly with persons with Down Syndrome.
“I start every day with a smile because through my work I support children with Down Syndrome and promote their right to life, this makes me proud,” she said. “I feel I am really productive serving my community.”
The Right of Life organization is a good example of how UNRWA, through JCP, supports community organizations providing critical social and rehabilitation services to the people of Gaza.
“Every six months, UNRWA provides us with 41 JCP personnel – ranging from cleaners to nurses and physiotherapists. The money we save this way we invest in providing more services to our beneficiaries. By training and raising awareness on Down Syndrome amongst JCP personnel, we also increase our advocacy on the rights and abilities of persons with Down Syndrome in the Gaza community,” explained Nabil Jinid, the programme manager at the Right of Life organization.
24-year-old Abed Al Hameed Abu Al Anzeen works as a JCP labourer in the Distribution Centre (DC) in Beach camp in western Gaza city. “I am gaining work experience related to warehouses, logistics and distribution, and I hope this will open other doors for me in the future,” he said.
“I also learnt how to work in a team, and I really enjoy that. With the money I earn I pay my rent.”
“Without our 27 JCP staff, we would not be able to operate; they help facilitate the distribution process and through them we save a lot of time and efforts,” said Saif Allah Yaghi, the supervisor in the DC in Beach camp.
Fatima Al Adeli is a 28-year-old architect and a mother of three children from Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza. For the past three months, she has worked in the Beit Hanoun municipality through JCP. The work opportunity not only provided her with financial support, but she also gained more self-confidence.
“When I started to leave my home for work, I became stronger and more confident. I deal with many different people and enhance my network which hopefully helps me in the future. I want to continue working,” she said. “The money I earn I mostly spend for medicine and for clothes for my children.”
A few months ago 30-year-old Ibrahim Nasser received a JCP work opportunity as supervisor of other labourers in Nuseirat camp, central Gaza.
“I have a Bachelor degree in business administration and this work gave me for the first time a chance to apply my skills in coordination, management and communication. Previously, I worked as cleaner or labourer to support my family. The money I earn through this job opportunity I spend on medical treatment for my family,” he said.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) provides assistance and protection for some 5 million registered Palestine refugees to help them achieve their full potential in human development.