Long road ahead for crippled Gaza

2014-09-16 15:31
(Thomas Coex, AFP)

(Thomas Coex, AFP)

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Ramallah - The Hamas-Israel war over Gaza has left the coastal territory with a crippled economy, kilometres of devastated wasteland and major infrastructure either destroyed or damaged.

“We are working on a 24 month plan for the refugees which comprise 70% of Gaza. This plan will only succeed if the blockade is lifted,” UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) spokesperson Chris Gunness said.

The attack, codenamed “Operation Protective Edge” now stands as the most severe military campaign against Gaza since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories in 1967.

“The devastation caused this time is unprecedented in recent memory. Parts of Gaza resemble an earthquake zone with 29km of damaged infrastructure,” said Gunness.

Palestinian Economic Council for Research and Development (PECDAR) head Mohammed Shtayyeh, a Palestinian economist and a senior member of the West Bank's dominant Fatah party said “Gaza has been hit with a catastrophe and it needs immediate help because many things can't wait”.
 
Gaza was already struggling to function prior to the seven week onslaught due to Israel’s blockade of the territory in 2007 and several other wars between Hamas and Israel in 2008/9 and 2012.

With the latest destruction reconstruction of the territory has been put at $7.8bn according to PECDAR.

Expensive

The Palestinian Authority (PA) says the reconstruction of 18 000 Gazan homes razed by Israeli bombings will cost $2.5bn, with the energy sector needing $250m after the Strip's only power plant was destroyed by two Israeli missiles.

Due to attacks on the strip’s infrastructure four hundred and fifty thousand Gazans are unable to access water.

Following the ceasefire the Palestinian death toll stood at 2 130 and more than 11 000 injuries.

Four hospitals and five clinics were closed due to severe damage while 17 of Gaza’s 32 hospitals and 45 of 97 primary health clinics were damaged.

UNRWA said 22 schools were completely destroyed and 118 schools damaged during Israeli bombardments while many higher education facilities were damaged.

UNRWA added that approximately 110 000 displaced Gazans remain in UN emergency shelters or with host families.

The reconstruction of shelters alone will cost over $380m, $270m of which relates to Palestinian refugees.

According to the Palestinian Federation of Industries 419 businesses and workshops were damaged with 129 completely destroyed.

With limited activity at the commercial crossings and extensive damage to private infrastructure and other productive assets, business activities were largely paralysed during the operation.

Farmers and herders were forced to abandon their lands during hostilities damaging agriculture, greenhouses and irrigation systems.

The recovery process is going to be extensive and expensive. Emergency measures are needed for shelter solutions, including short term accommodation for the displaced until longer term reconstruction can be undertaken.

Explosive Remnants of War

However, reconstruction is currently impossible as Israel bars the import of construction material and following the destruction of smuggling tunnels between Sinai and Gaza by Egypt there is no construction material on the local market.

“We have 300 engineers surveying 40 000 homes over the next few months. But there is no point in building homes if they are not connected to sewage and water infrastructure,” Gunness said.

Therefore, the repair, reconstruction and reparation of essential services for practically the entire population of the Gaza Strip are essential. This includes repairing roads, electricity lines and water and sanitation networks.

Fuel shortages need to be addressed so that backup generators can operate in support of water, sanitation and health facilities.

The UN Gaza Appeal has requested $23.5m for UN agencies and non-governmental organisations to support these health during the recovery period.

The World Food Program requires approximately $63m for emergency humanitarian response in Gaza for a period of three months for food and other emergency assistance for the displaced.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Sunday appealed for $40m to deal with a shortage of medicine and medical supplies. There also needs to be the removal of thousands of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) which are posing a danger to civilians.

That is why an agreement needs to be reached to allow the sustained opening of crossings into Gaza in addition to the removal of restrictions on the entry of materials for rehabilitation.

“Taxpayers are being asked to fund Gaza’s reconstruction yet again with no security guarantees and with each new war more bitterness is created so a resolution is essential,” Gunness said.

Analysts from both sides acknowledge that the only way to proceed beyond the impasse is for a political solution to be agreed upon by both sides.

Read more on:    un  |  unrwa  |  who  |  palestine  |  israel  |  gaza  |  middle east peace

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