UN: Gaza could become 'uninhabitable' by 2020

02 Sep 2015
Agence France-Presse

Summary

Israeli military action and economic blockade have rendered the coastal strip unfit for civilian life, report says.

Two children sitting on rubble in Gaza

The Gaza Strip, ravaged by successive wars and nearly a decade of Israeli blockade, could become uninhabitable for residents within just five years, the United Nations development agency said Tuesday.

"The social, health and security-related ramifications of the high population density and overcrowding are among the factors that may render Gaza unliveable by 2020," the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) wrote in its annual report.

Gaza, a tiny enclave of about 225 square miles squeezed between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea, is home to about 1.8 million Palestinians, making it one of the most densely populated territories in the world.

While the high density is not new, the situation has been exacerbated by three Israeli military operations in the past six years and nearly a decade-long economic blockade.

The blockade had "ravaged the already debilitated infrastructure of Gaza, shattered its productive base, left no time for meaningful reconstruction or economic recovery and impoverished the Palestinian population in Gaza," the report said.

"Short of ending the blockade, donor aid... will not reverse the ongoing de-development and impoverishment in Gaza," it added.

Socio-economic conditions in Gaza today are currently "at their lowest point since 1967," when Israel seized the territory from Egypt in its Six-Day War, according to the report.

The report estimated that the three military operations, including last year's devastating war that killed some 2,200 Palestinians and displaced half a million more, had caused economic losses close to three times the size of Gaza's gross domestic product.

The 2014 war, which also killed 73 Israelis, destroyed or severely damaged more than 20,000 Palestinian homes, 148 schools, 15 hospitals and 45 primary health care centers, UNCTAD said.

As many as 247 factories and 300 commercial centers were fully or partially destroyed, and Gaza's only power station sustained severe damage, it said.
Water, unemployment crises

Even before last year's conflict, Gaza's electricity supply was not even enough to cover 40 percent of demand, UNCTAD said, adding that 95 percent of water from coastal aquifers — Gazans main source of freshwater — was considered unsafe to drink.

"It inflicted large-scale destruction on Gaza's local economy, productive assets and infrastructure, and affected numerous industrial, agricultural, commercial and residential facilities either directly or indirectly through debilitated infrastructure and acute shortages of inputs, water, electricity and fuel," it said.

Exports had basically been completely banned, as imports of anything besides the most basic humanitarian goods had been blocked.

The dire situation has left Gaza relying heavily on aid, but the report warned that while donor support would remain vital, it could not turn around the situation in the territory alone.


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