As donor countries meet for a pledging conference in Cairo today, the Norwegian Refugee Council warns against turning the rebuilding of Gaza into only a question of money. “Money for reconstruction cannot substitute international pressure for the political change needed to deliver hope for people in Gaza. We cannot continue rebuilding Gaza every few years”, says Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland.
The war this summer is the third war between Israel and Hamas in six years. More than 2, 200 people lost their lives during the 50 days of destructive warfare. 120.000 Palestinians in Gaza have had their homes destroyed or severely damaged, and public infrastructure like water and electricity, is badly damaged.
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“This is a man-made disaster, and only bold political action can spell an end to the despair in Gaza. In a time when humanitarian budgets are stretched to the limit, can we no longer afford to fail looking for political solutions, ” says Egeland.
The current humanitarian needs in Gaza are not just the result of the latest war, but also rooted in the prolonged occupation and conflict and seven years of Israeli blockade isolating Gaza. This has led to a precarious fiscal position, mass unemployment and poverty. More than 80% of Gaza’s population was dependent on aid even before the latest war.
“The blockade is stalling the reconstruction efforts, limiting the freedom of people in Gaza and ruining Gaza’s economy, forcing people into aid-dependence. The international community should take bold steps to make sure that the blockade is lifted and the human rights of people on both sides of the border are protected”, says Egeland.
Reconstruction after the prior wars in Gaza has been severely limited due to the blockade, with many destroyed houses from the former wars not being rebuilt. It has also made it difficult to import the necessary building material to meet the increased housing needs from natural growth.
There is a need for an additional 100.000 housing units. To be able to meet the housing needs within 5 years, the number of truckloads with building material entering Gaza must be increased to more than 440 every day of the year, according to the Shelter cluster, a coordination group chaired by the Norwegian Refugee Council. Currently only about 30 truckloads of building materials are getting in.
“The only way to meet the urgent housing needs in Gaza is by lifting the blockade, ” Egeland says.
Of course, in order for Israel to lift the blockade, it must be secure in the knowledge that the powers that be inside Gaza are no longer dedicated to its destruction. As long as the rulers of the strip and their henchmen remain steadfast, in speeches as well as in official documents, to the annihilation of all of Israel, there will be no incentive for the Jewish State to let down its guard, despite the sincere observations of Mr. Egeland.