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Reconstruction in Gaza

The IRIN news service draws attention to a paper just published by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) on the rebuilding needed in Gaza after Israel’s 23-day offensive in December 2008 and January 2009. Entitled ‘One Year After: GAZA, Early Recovery and Reconstruction Needs Assessment’, the UNDP reports that some 25% of infrastructure damage has been repaired in the Gaza strip, often by local small-scale builders. But that still leaves three-quarters of the damage unaddressed, including homes, schools and hospitals. The report estimates that 527 million US dollars would be needed to return Gaza to its pre-war state, though much more would be required to make up for the lack of public investment in infrastructure over the last four years of the Israeli blockade.

Though the report notes that 78 percent of public water and sanitation facilities have been restored and most health facilities have been repaired, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) highlights the continuing lack of medicines and equipment still facing the region, as well as the acute shortage of electricity. The UNDP reports that only half the damage to the electricity network has been repaired. Though progress has been made, largely due to international organizations operating in the region and through the entry of goods via cross-border tunnels from Egypt, large scale assistance continues to be hampered by the Israeli blockade, which only allows the inflow of certain goods into Gaza.

Since the recent strikes on Turkish-backed aid ships, Israel has come under mounting political pressure to relax the blockade. This has meant that at the end of June, Israel agreed to an increased number of goods being allowed into Gaza, enabling some construction materials to be shipped in. However there will still be many restrictions. The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza, John Ging, said the position of the UN was clear, that only a lifting of the blockade could lead to the restoration of basic rights for people in Gaza. This is unlikely to happen while the Hamas party rules in Gaza.

If building supplies can be improved, certain projects through the UNRWA already have funding. According to the UNDP report, 3,425 homes were destroyed in the region, displacing around 20,000 people. The UNRWA hopes to rebuild 2,300 homes for refugees and a further 200 million has been promised to build 1,200 houses for non-refugees. In addition, 100 schools and a teacher training college have funding for reconstruction, which is desperately needed, since only 17.5% of the value of damages to educational facilities have so far been repaired.

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