Thursday, November 23, 2017

Homelessness still rife in Gaza


By Ruairi Henchy - February 03, 2015
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [House Demolition] [Human rights] [Gaza] [Gaza Blockade] [UN]

Almost six months after Israel’s Operation Protective Edge ended, living conditions for the vast majority of the approximately 108,000 Palestinians left homeless are still appalling.

In its monthly report published on 24 December 2014 about the humanitarian situation throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) detailed the extent to which people had been resettled in the Gaza Strip since hostilities ended. The report estimated that there were still around 118,000 people (19,600 families) internally displaced.

Roughly 20,000 of these Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are staying In UNRWA collective centres. The rest are staying with friends and family wherever feasible, or else sleeping in makeshift tents and shelters, often among the ruins of their former homes. Due to the continued Israeli embargo of most construction materials and the closure of the Rafah crossing with Egypt, reconstruction in Gaza on any significant scale has yet to begin. Indeed, UNRWA announced last Wednesday January 28 that reconstruction in Gaza was halting due to a lack of finances. 

In the meantime, the construction of transitional shelters as a temporary solution has also been moving at a snail’s pace. At the end of December, 75 families had been housed in a camp in Khuza’a in the Southern Gaza Strip, and another 100 families had been similarly provided for in Beit Hanoun in the North. Further blocks of these prefabricated units are planned for Beit Lahiya, Shuja’iyeh and Khan Younis, these neighborhoods being among those most devastated in the recent war.

International donors have already pledged some $49 million to erect another 7,000 of these units as a stopgap before more permanent reconstruction can be carried out. However, OCHA has called the wisdom of this initiative into question, arguing that the money would be better spent on permanent reconstruction of some of the homes destroyed. The shelters are inadequate in most cases due to logistical concerns with the lack of space available and the need to clear rubble. 

Crucially, such temporary units are also wholly unsuitable in times of severe weather conditions. Heavy rains from the 24th to the 27th of November saw flooding and leaks in the Khuza’a IDP camp. The bitter cold of storm Huda in early January also saw those living in temporary accommodation experience severe hardship. OCHA’s report details that despite the best efforts of Gaza’s civil defence teams to prepare for the winter, a lack of pumps and other crucial infrastructure means that Gaza is still ill-prepared for challenging weather conditions.

The lack of progress on the issues of homelessness and internal displacement is quickly making the situation on the ground in Gaza untenable, with public anger boiling over. Following the UNRWA announcement on Wednesday on the halting of reconstruction, protestors attacked the UN headquarters in Gaza City, burning tyres on the street outside and throwing rocks at the gates and buildings, Al Jazeera reported

This follows the attempt of a 50-year-old man, internally displaced in an UNRWA collective centrer in Khan Younis, to set himself on fire on Sunday January 25. The attempted self-immolation was in protest at the poor living conditions and his inability to begin reconstruction, the OCHA detailed in its latest report on the protection of civilians in the OPT. 

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