Gaza starts rebuilding homes lost in 2014 war

2015-07-22 19:01
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Gaza City - Lutfi Harara is laying the foundation for his new home in eastern Gaza City's Sheja'eyah district.

It will replace his old one, a three-storey house crushed by Israeli tank shells on July 22 2014, at the height of last year's Israel-Gaza war.

"I waited one whole year for this moment to rebuild my destroyed home and here comes the moment," said Harara, 42, during a ceremony attended by Palestinian Housing and Public Works Minister Mufid Hasayna.

Renovation of homes that were only damaged during the war is well under way. But that leaves 18 000 Gaza Strip homes that were destroyed and awaiting replacement. Work on Harara's home marks the launch of a slow-moving effort to rebuild them.

Under a United Nations-supervised mechanism - put in place to ensure that cement, metal and pipes do not end up in the hands of militants who might use them to build rockets or attack tunnels - Harara was not scheduled to receive his portions of construction materials until Sunday.

But he asked one of the approved cement dealers in Gaza City for an early delivery, so that he could symbolically start the reconstruction of his house exactly one year after it was destroyed. 

The father of 13 said his family lived for one year in two makeshift rooms with a tin ceiling nearby his destroyed house.

Under the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), the UN assessed the losses for all houses destroyed and damaged in the July-August 2014 conflict. Palestinians on the list are entitled to buy the building materials they need from certified Gaza dealers working with the UN. They can also apply for funding.

More money needed

But more cash donations are needed from the international community, say UN officials. 

More than 60 000 families of a total of 95 000 whose houses were partially damaged have already received all the materials needed to fix their homes, according to the UN. Almost 30 000 have received some of the materials to which they are entitled. The applications of the remaining 5 000 are still being reviewed.

But the reconstruction of fully destroyed homes proved more complex. 

In areas like Sheja'eyah, where whole blocks have been flattened, infrastructure needed to be built and huge amounts of rubble removed before rebuilding homes could start.

A shortage of leadership by the Palestinian committee in charge of the reconstruction effort, on top of inefficient coordination between the various Palestinian institutions and ministries - from the water and electricity authorities to the municipalities - also slowed down the process, one UN official told dpa.

Hasayna told reporters at the inauguration ceremony that his ministry was cooperating with the UN and donors like Qatar, Saudi Arabua, Egypt, Jordan and Malaysia to get the reconstruction of 18 000 destroyed houses off the ground.

"All I can say now is that the wheel of the promised construction plan started spinning and it won't stop," said the minister in the Palestinian government of reconciliation, formed in agreement between the Islamist Hamas movement in de facto control of the Gaza Strip, and West Bank-based Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of the rival, secular Fatah party.

"I'm certain that the coming days will witness a large movement of reconstruction," promised Hasayna.

At an October donors conference in Cairo, the international community pledged $5.4bn to rebuild Gaza, but much of that sum has not yet arrived. 

One reason cited is the ongoing dispute between Hamas and Fatah, which makes it hard for the so-called unity government to function efficiently.

Without clear plans showing how money would be disbursed, some countries were uneager to make transfers as promised, said the UN official. 

The Housing and Public Works Ministry issued a statement on Tuesday calling upon the owners of homes destroyed during the war to sign up with the ministry if they want to be eligible to get the funding they needed to buy the cement and metal portions they are entitled to. 

"Technical, administrative and engineering teams are on alert and ready to start working with the population to speed up the plan which has been delayed for several months," it said.

Read more on:    un  |  palestine  |  gaza  |  gaza war

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