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Gaza could be ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020, U.N. warns

The wars have shattered Gaza's ability to export and produce for the domestic market and left no time for reconstruction

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Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020 if current economic trends continue, a new United Nations report revealed on Wednesday.

A complete blockade and three consecutive wars in the past six years have resulted in a detrimental economic stalemate in the Palestinian enclave, a report by the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said.

“As many as 247 factories and 300 commercial centers were fully or partially destroyed. Serious damage was inflicted on Gaza’s sole power plant. The agricultural sector alone suffered $550 million in losses,” it added.

“The conditions as far as the infrastructure, drinking water, sewage system, electricity, health system, education system…everything was devastated time after time and with no chance to reconstruct any of these,” Mahmoud el-Khafif, coordinator of the assistance to the Palestinian People at UNCTAD told Al Arabiya News.

Palestinians look up at an Israeli air force unmanned drone as they stand in the rubble of their destroyed house in the area of east Jebaliya, in the northern Gaza Strip, that was devastated in the last Israeli military offensive, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009. (Reuters)
Palestinians look up at an Israeli air force unmanned drone as they stand in the rubble of their destroyed house in the area of east Jebaliya, in the northern Gaza Strip, that was devastated in the last Israeli military offensive, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009. (Reuters)

The most recent war – in which more than 2,000 Palestinians - mostly civilians - were killed - “effectively eliminated what was left of the middle class, sending almost all of the population into destitution and dependence on international humanitarian aid,” according to the UNCTAD report.

More than five billion dollars were donated during a conference in support of Gaza following the war in 2014 after the most recent war.

But of the $3.5 billion dedicated to Gaza, only 27 percent has been dispersed as of May to aid the displacement of half a million people, Khafif said adding that none of the fund was used to any major reconstructions.

Basic economic rights trump donations

Despite the pledges of monetary support, the report maintains that Gazans need to secure “their human right to development under international law far more than they need donor aid.”

“If the Palestinian people are given the chance, they are good enough and innovative enough to be able to feed themselves,” Khafif, the main author of the report, said.

“Gaza has to be given the chance to rebuild itself…its productive base,” Khafif added.

Allowing reconstruction materials into Gaza so Palestinians can rebuild their homes and hospitals is the first step, he said.

Implementing and activating the Movement and Access Agreement signed by the Palestinians and Israelis back in 2005 is the second step.

The agreement calls for three main points, to reconnect the Gaza Strip with the West Bank and the rest of the world, to construct a seaport in the enclave and finally, to begin negotiations on the construction of an airport.

“This is a step that needs to be taken to alleviate the agony of the people in Gaza,” he said, adding that the agreement should involve all of Gaza’s neighbors, including Egypt.

“If the current blockade and insufficient levels of donor support persist…Gaza will become economically unviable,” the report explained.

Tunnels

Gaza’s GDP dropped 15 percent last year, and unemployment reached a record high of 44 percent while 72 percent of households remain food insecure, the Associated Press reported.

While it kept the economy alive, the tunnel system that evolved as a response to the blockade should have never emerged, UNCTAD said.

“The tunnels should never have been perceived as substitutes for the fundamental human right of the Palestinian people to enjoy free and normal access to global markets,” the report said.

“Gaza requires a lifting of this blockade, not an unregulated underground economy,” it added.