Palestinians place sandbags as they try to prevent rain water from flooding their house following heavy rain in Gaza City November 27.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A cash shortfall due to a lack of donor funding has forced the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees to suspend its cash program to help people in Gaza repair and rebuild homes damaged during last summer’s conflict between Hamas and Israel.
Nations pledged $5.4 billion to help rebuild Gaza. At an October donor conference in Cairo of which UNRWA had requested $720 million for its cash-assistance program.
“Virtually none of it has reached Gaza. This is distressing and unacceptable,” said UNRWA Director in Gaza Robert Turner. “It is unclear why this funding has not been forthcoming.”
To date, UNRWA said it has received only $135m. in pledges, leaving an overall shortfall of $585m. for the repair and rebuild program. It also provides rental subsidies for those made homeless by the war.
More than 96,000 Palestinian family homes were damaged or destroyed during the conflict, UNRWA said, adding that $100m. is needed just to continue the program until the end of March.
“UNRWA in Gaza has, so far, provided over $77m. to 66,000 Palestine refugee families to repair their homes or find a temporary alternative,” Turner said. “This is a tremendous achievement; it is also wholly insufficient.
“It is easy to look at these numbers and lose sight of the fact that we are talking about thousands of families who continue to suffer through this cold winter with inadequate shelter. People are literally sleeping amongst the rubble; children have died of hypothermia,” he said.
UNRWA is concerned that if it cannot continue to provide rental subsidies, large numbers may return to the collective centers where almost 12,000 displaced Palestinians continue to seek shelter, it said.
On Monday, representatives of the Middle East Quartet – the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union – met in Brussels to discuss the stagnant Israeli- Palestinian peace process and the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
After the meeting it called on donor countries to assist Gaza.
“Every effort should be made to encourage the fulfillment of pledges of assistance made at the Cairo Conference on the reconstruction of Gaza in October last year,” it said.
In New York, President Reuven Rivlin spoke of the need to rebuild Gaza when he met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The two also spoke of the different ongoing investigations into the Gaza war, with Rivlin telling Ban investigations into IDF activity are best left to Israel.
“I have no doubt that we know how to investigate every event which took place during a conflict that was forced upon us, and to draw every necessary conclusion – there is no force in Israel stronger than the law,” Rivlin said.
The IDF is examining its actions during Operation Protective Edge, while Ban’s office is investigating the shelling of three UNRWA schools, and the United Nations Human Rights Council is examining human rights violations during the conflict. It is assumed that the Palestinians would use this as part the case it hopes to file against Israel before the International Criminal Court.