JERUSALEM – Christopher Gunness, Spokesman, United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)
“agency in charge of aiding Palestinians’’, said it would run out of money to repair the damaged homes in Gaza by the end of January.
He said on Friday in Jerusalem, that UNRWA had received only 135 million dollars out of an estimated [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”10″]
720 million dollars needed to rebuild and repair destroyed and damaged homes and for rent subsidies for people made homeless by the conflict.
Gunness said because of the shortfall, the agency would be forced to suspend the programme by the end of the month.
“Our concern is the humanitarian impact this would have on the people of Gaza,” he said.
Gunness said the consequences of suspending the programme would be dire as Gaza’s 1.8 million people struggle to recover from last summer’s fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in the coastal enclave.
He said the International donors pledged 5.4 billion dollars towards the reconstruction last October, but the progress has been slow.
“While the number of people benefitting from reconstruction efforts is rising, progress is not fast enough,” he said.
He noted that the conflict damaged or destroyed more than 96,000 homes, more than double the original estimate, along with much of the tiny enclave’s infrastructure.
Gunness said more than 14,000 people driven from their homes by the conflict still live in schools run by UNWRA.
He said others live in makeshift shelters or prefabricated housing units, or homes so badly damaged that they are exposed to the elements.
Meanwhile, Arwa Mhanna, Aid Agency Oxfam’s Spokeswoman in Gaza, said the heavy winter storms this month added to the suffering of the people of Gaza, especially as electricity, fuel and cooking gas are running short there.
“Many people are still displaced, many still lack heating and lighting and simply don’t live in adequate conditions, more than six months after the end of the war,” she said.
Mhanna said there needs are much bigger than what was coming to Gaza in terms of aid and support.
Aid workers said a blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel after the Islamist movement Hamas won power there in elections in 2006 is a big obstacle to their efforts.
They said both Egpyt and Israel continue to impose tight controls on the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza, so not enough building materials can be brought in to speed up reconstruction.
Joseph Aguettant, aid agency terre des Hommes Country Representative for Palestine, said that apart from housing, repairs to Gaza’s water supply network are also desperately needed.
He said more than 90 per cent of water in the territory has been classified as unfit for human consumption.
“Water and sanitation are among the biggest problems in Gaza and the effects of the war have made this situation a lot worse,” he said.
Aguettant said funding to set up 42 water tanks to provide clean drinking water in schools damaged during the fighting, has just been approved. (Reuters/NAN)