Two years after Gaza war, rebuilding lags behind and international donors are bailing

In the summer of 2014, the four-story building where Nashat Nawati lived with his extended family was reduced to rubble by Israeli bombs during a six-week war with Hamas. Two years later, Nawati and his six children are still stuck in temporary quarters half the size of his old apartment as they wait to get foreign aid necessary to rebuild.

Nawati is one of about 75,000 Gazans still displaced from their homes as a $3.5-billion effort to rebuild Gaza from the destruction of the war creeps along at a pace officials say has fallen years behind schedule. The biggest problem, according to the United Nations, is funding shortfalls. Only about 50% of promised donor aid was disbursed as of the end of March, according to the latest World Bank report. Among large donors, Persian Gulf countries such as Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia had transferred only 15% or less of their pledges.

Unemployment among Gaza’s youth is estimated at 60%. According to the United Nations, it will take Gaza’s economy another two years to return to the point where it was before the war. Last year, the United Nations warned that Gaza may become uninhabitable by 2020 if there is no change in the economic situation.

The rebuilding task is daunting. Gaza’s power lines and the territory’s sole power plant were hit during the war, leading to rolling power cuts of 12 to 18 hours a day on an electricity grid capable of supplying only half of the territory’s needs. The power shortage has hobbled Gaza’s sewage treatment plant, sending about 24 million gallons of raw sewage into the sea daily and creating a stifling stench along the coast. Schools, businesses, farms and medical centers also sustained tens of millions of dollars in damage.

There are multiple headwinds holding up the massive project: The Hamas-controlled territory of 1.8 million Palestinians is hemmed in by an Israeli and Egyptian blockade, and building materials like cement have been in short supply; a U.N.-run system that gives Israel oversight over the distribution of construction supplies has been criticized for slowing rebuilding with too much red tape.

 [Los Angeles Times]

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