Authors: Ertig Couture
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees could run out of funds to repair Gaza homes or provide rental subsidies to those who were made homeless from this summer’s conflict by month’s end, its Gaza director Robert Tuner said on Tuesday.
“To date, almost $80 million in payments have been made by UNRWA to families with damaged or destroyed homes,” Turner said. “However, by the end of January, UNRWA will run out of money for repair and rental subsidies.
The impact on families will be disastrous. Over 96,000 Palestine refugee homes were damaged or destroyed, which is more than double what we estimated.”
Turner spoke during a tour for 20 diplomats from nine countries that he led in the Strip on Tuesday along with UN Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process James Rawley.
The diplomats spoke with displaced Palestinians and learned of the hardships they face, particularly in the winter months.
“The war left more than 100,000 Palestinians homeless, over half of whom are children,” Rawley said. “Those living in makeshift shelters or prefabricated housing units are particularly vulnerable to the cold and rainy winter weather. Flooding and lack of adequate heating make a difficult situation even more miserable and dangerous.”
UNRWA and the UN have called for donors countries to fund the needed reconstruction work.
“We also need to look beyond the immediate challenges.
The escalation of hostilities may have ceased for now, but the blockade of Gaza continues to impact all aspects of daily Palestinian life and impedes the development of the Gaza Strip,” Turner said.
Rawley, meanwhile, said the UN is committed to accelerating the reconstruction efforts and lifting the restrictions on the Gaza borders.
“The Gaza crisis did not start this summer,” Rawley stressed.
“Seven years of blockade and the ongoing conflict have exhausted people’s coping mechanisms and increased aid dependency and food insecurity.”