One year on from the ceasefire and rebuilding Gaza is painfully slow
Today (26 August) marks one year since the ceasefire was declared which ended the Gaza conflict. The war saw five weeks of relentless death and destruction in the area. Now that the dust has settled, we know that over 2,200 people, mostly civilians, lost their lives.
The UN estimates that 20,000 buildings were destroyed or left uninhabitable, and the past twelve months people have seen very little done to rebuild their lost homes. Displaced families are still in temporary accommodation that was only ever intended to be so, and cannot cope with the demands of permanent residency. This summer’s heatwave has been particularly harsh for many, who have been unable to keep their temporary accommodation cool. While humanitarian agencies such as ours work to provide immediate relief with projects such as water desalination and improvements to this temporary accommodation, what we really need is long-term solutions for the people of Gaza.
The current blockades mean that only a tiny fraction of the construction materials which are needed to rebuild Gaza’s damaged buildings have been able to get through. While repairs to essential public buildings such as school and hospitals have rightly been prioritised, rebuilding housing has been much slower. The longer the blockades continue, the more lives will be lost. Last winter, five babies are known to have died from hyperthermia in freezing temperatures when people were unable to keep their accommodation warm.
In February, Oxfam estimated that 800,000 truckloads of building materials are needed to rebuild the Gaza Strip, and in the previous three months only 0.25 per percent of building materials had made it through the blockade. At this rate, it will take nearly up to 50 years to rebuild Gaza.
In addition to the problems caused by temporary accommodation, Gaza now has one of the world’s highest unemployment rates. Recent figures show that 67.9 percent of people under 24 years old are now without work, which is a grim but unsurprising statistic in a place where there are so few opportunities for young people.
An example of why this is the case is perfectly encapsulated by the fishing industry. The trade is beset with difficulties - since last year's ceasefire there have been more than 300 incidents of naval fire at or towards fishermen alone. It is estimated that 90 percent of fisherman are in need of international aid. However, fishing is an essential lifeline for the families who depend on the income, and the food it provides, so many are determined to continue their trade. Human Appeal is working with fishermen to provide them with equipment to repair their damaged boats and equipment.
If the blockades are not lifted, today’s young people are likely to have children of their own by the time Gaza’s reconstruction is completed – if they are lucky enough to make it that long.