05 Jul 2015

At the current rate that materials are entering Gaza, it will take over half a century to meet housing needs

One year since the beginning of the last war on Gaza, which killed over 2,000 Palestinians, tens of thousands of people are still homeless, waiting for reconstruction to begin in the blockaded enclave. None of the 12,600 houses destroyed a year ago has been rebuilt, leaving up to 100,000 people still displaced, with many of them living in makeshift tents or struggling to earn enough to pay rent in an economy shattered by 8 years under blockade. An extra 83,977 housing units are still waiting for repair assistance and people continue to live in homes that bare gaping holes from the bombardment. While much has been made of mechanisms to bring in construction materials which the blockade would otherwise prevent, the problem goes deeper than merely providing building materials. At present Gaza is getting just 7.5 per cent of daily construction materials needed to cover the housing demand, but even where materials are available, the people lack the finances to start reconstruction in an area with the highest unemployment rate in the world. Large swathes of rubble are still waiting to be cleared – some still containing unexploded ordnance from the war – the water network has suffered severe damage and electricity only comes intermittently. All these obstacles must be addressed as a precursor to the reconstruction process. “The utter destruction left a year ago is keeping thousands of people in misery, on top of an already crippling blockade that limits everything coming in and out of the Gaza Strip,” said Norwegian Refugee Council’s Secretary General Jan Egeland. “This is the third time the people of Gaza have had to rebuild in less than a decade, each time in more dire circumstances. If the people of Gaza are to have any chance to truly recover, the international community must ensure that the reconstruction happens urgently.” NRC is calling upon the international community to support the development of a holistic plan for all aspects of the reconstruction process, however, in the interim, urgent funding is also needed for temporary shelter solutions for the tens of thousands of displaced persons. “A clear plan for reconstruction is essential, but we also cannot lose sight of the root causes of this conflict. Peace cannot be built on this rubble,” Egeland added. “Unless the blockade and occupation of Palestine are addressed, we are bound to see this senseless cycle of destruction and reconstruction happening all over again, as we have seen over the last seven years, with catastrophic consequences for Palestinians and Israelis. A seven-year-old child in Gaza has already witnessed three wars in their lifetime. This is unacceptable and international donors and governments must demand that Israel commits to protecting civilian infrastructure – particularly water infrastructure, schools and medical facilities –and that the blockade of Gaza is lifted." (Courtesy of the Norwegian Refugee Council)
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