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The bulk of money pledged at the global donor conference to rebuild Gaza will languish in bank accounts for decades before it reaches people unless long-standing Israeli restrictions on imports are lifted, Oxfam said today. The agency said under current restrictions and rate of imports it could take more than 50 years to build the 89,000 new homes, 226 new schools and the health facilities, factories and water and sanitation infrastructure that people in Gaza need.
"Unless donors step up pressure to end the blockade, many children made homeless by the recent conflict will be grandparents by the time their homes and schools are rebuilt. Aid agencies are providing desperately needed emergency assistance, but long-term reconstruction and development requires more than money. These will be empty pledges unless donors also ensure that this aid can actually be delivered. Winter is coming and people without homes cannot afford to wait," said Catherine Essoyan, Oxfam Regional Director.
Under the ongoing blockade, the Israeli government places severe restrictions on goods coming in and out of Gaza, including the materials needed for reconstruction. In the first half of 2014, just over 1,000 truckloads of construction materials have been allowed into Gaza per month - a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of truckloads that will be needed to rebuild due to destruction and years of restrictions on development. In the month after the ceasefire only 500 truckloads of construction materials have entered Gaza. Before the blockade was imposed in 2007, around 7,400 truckloads used to enter Gaza per month.
Current proposals to slightly ease restrictions rather than lift them are likely to be a drop in the ocean compared to the huge scale of need after 50 days of unprecedented destruction. Previous commitments made to allow construction materials in to Gaza have failed to fully materialise.
"Five years ago donors gathered in Egypt, just as they do now, to pledge billions of dollars for Gaza's reconstruction after the 2009 war. Five years later, more than half of the destroyed homes still hadn't been rebuilt due to restrictions. This time the need is even greater and the stakes are higher than ever," said Essoyan.
A lasting peace is absolutely necessary
Oxfam said the international community must act now to ensure that this is the last time we have to rebuild Gaza, and to take a long-term approach to ending the crisis. The agency called for follow-up talks to set out how the pledges can feasibly be delivered and held accountable. Previous agreements show there are ways to ensure the fundamental rights of Palestinians in Gaza while providing for Israel's security. Oxfam said the international community must insist on substantive discussions toward a permanent ceasefire, an end to the blockade, and lasting peace for Palestinian and Israeli civilians.
"We cannot let this terribly costly and wasteful cycle of destruction continue. This is the third time in six years that the international community is pledging to rebuild Gaza after a war. It is time to address the root causes of this conflict once and for all. We need to ensure people in Gaza have their rights as well as aid," said Essoyan.
Notes to editors
- During the 50 days of conflict, massive destruction was caused to lives, livelihoods and essential services. More than 100,000 people remain homeless and 450,000 without running water.
- Gaza needs at least 89,000 new homes and 226 new schools - to rebuild those destroyed or damaged in the recent and previous wars and due to inadequate facilities. This would require around 700,000 truckloads of construction materials including aggregates, cement and steel bars. In the first half of 2014 an average of around 1,100 truckloads were permitted to enter Gaza each month. At this rate it would take more than 50 years to import enough construction material. On top of this, large numbers of additional truckloads are needed to rebuild health facilities, water and sanitation systems, factories and other infrastructure, as well as account for natural population growth.
- In the two years after the 2009 donor conference for Gaza reconstruction, an average of 335 truckloads of construction materials per month were permitted to enter.