Last year's war on Gaza displaced half a million people and left parts of the strip destroyed. Image: EPA
Last year’s war on Gaza displaced half a million people and left parts of the strip destroyed. Image: EPA


NEW YORK — Gaza could be “uninhabitable” in less than five years if current economic trends continue, according to a new United Nations report.

The report released on Tuesday by the UN Conference on Trade and Development points to the eight-year economic blockade of Gaza as well as the three wars there over the past six years.

The humanitarian catastrophe is man-made. The answer is only through are man-made policies.

Hamdi Shaqqura, the deputy director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

Last year’s Israeli war on Gaza displaced half a million people and left parts of the strip destroyed.

The war “has effectively eliminated what was left of the middle class, sending almost all of the population into destitution and dependence on international humanitarian aid,” the new report says.

Gaza’s GDP dropped 15 percent last year, and unemployment reached a record high of 44 percent. Seventy-two percent of households are food insecure.

The wars have shattered Gaza’s ability to export and produce for the domestic market and left no time for reconstruction, the report says. It notes that Gaza’s “de-development,” or development in reverse, has been accelerated.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade of Gaza since the armed group Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007.

“The humanitarian catastrophe is man-made. The answer is only through are man-made policies,” Hamdi Shaqqura, the deputy director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera.

Shaqqura said that donations from the international community have been “very useful”, but need to be coupled with “real political policies” to effectively help Gaza.

“The answer to Gaza is not dumping money into it. We have great potentials in Gaza for economic policies. What hinder economic development is merely Israeli policies, the closure (blockade) and other restrictions imposed on Gaza.”

A year after the war on Gaza, less than 2 percent of the required materials have been allowed into Gaza.

The report calls the economic prospects for 2015 for the Palestinian territories “bleak” because of the unstable political situation, reduced aid and the slow pace of reconstruction.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development also said that the number of Jewish settlers in Area C of the West Bank — 61 per cent of the entire territory — had quadrupled since 1994, after the Oslo Accords, to 340,000 — meaning they now outnumber Palestinians there.

“Socioeconomic conditions are at their lowest point since 1967,” the report stated.

Overall, the Palestinian economy entered recession for the first time since 2006 by shrinking 0.4 per cent in 2014, with per capita income falling for the second consecutive year. Unemployment among Palestinians living in the occupied territories grew by three points to reach 30 per cent. The direct effects could be seen in the inability of a third of households to properly feed themselves.

The economic and development crisis in Gaza is much more acute than the West Bank, and the territory will be “uninhabitable by 2020 if current economic trends persist”, the report stated.

Eight years of economic blockade of the Hamas-ruled enclave and three major Israeli military invasions since 2008 have “shattered its ability to export and produce for the domestic market, ravaged its already debilitated infrastructure, left no time for reconstruction and economic recovery.”

Last year’s Israeli military operation displaced 500,000 of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents, destroyed or severely damaged 20,000 homes, power plants, 60 hospitals and health centres, 247 factories and hundreds of shops and businesses. The direct economic toll — not counting deaths and indirect losses — since 2008 is triple Gaza’s GDP. At 44 per cent, unemployment was the highest ever recorded.

A total of 2,200 Palestinians died in last year’s conflict.

Ninety-five per cent of Gaza’s available drinking water, from coastal aquifers, is also unsafe to drink, according to the report. Food insecurity affects 72 per cent of Gazan households, and 868,000 residents relied solely on UN-supplied rations by May 2015, up from 72,000 in 2000.

To secure the interests of the settlers, a large Israeli infrastructure has been erected in the West Bank that takes an economic toll by obstructing the flow of people and goods across the territory and into Gaza. There are now nearly 500 Israeli barriers that include checkpoints, the separation wall, roadblocks and trenches that “unilaterally redefines the borders of the West Bank” and erases the internationally recognised 1967 lines.

The report concludes that the staggering numbers are due primarily to Israeli policies, both through the usurpation of land and resources by settlers but also through the withholding of vital Palestinian tax revenues on imported goods that accounted for three quarters of the Palestinian Authority budget in 2014.–Agencies



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