Winter is harsh for Gaza’s poorest
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Two years after the Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip, reconstruction of damaged property seems to have ground to a halt. In the rainy season, the peope of Gaza struggle in their precarious homes.
A makeshift house in Gaza. Photo sent by Lina Al Sharif.
Two years after the Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip, reconstruction of damaged property seems to have ground to a halt. In the rainy season, the people of Gaza struggle in their precarious homes.
The Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip between December 2008 and January 2009 destroyed over 4,000 homes. In an act of international solidarity, nearly 4 billion dollars (more than 3 billion euros) were pledged by 75 donors, including the United States (6.9 million euros), Saudi Arabia (7.6 million euros) and the European Union (425 million euros). In exchange, the donors demanded that the money be distributed by the Palestinian Authority and not by Hamas, which has run Gaza since 2007. Two years after the donors' conference at Charm El-Sheik (Egypt), Gazans are still mainly relying on their own efforts.
A report published at the end of November 2010 by a coalition of 22 development and human rights organizations sounded the alarm about restrictions still in place, which impact the everyday life of Palestinians in Gaza. Following the “Operation Cast Lead,” Israel promised to look into ways of easing the blockade. But while they have allowed some products into Gaza, such as chocolate and biscuits, Gazans are still waiting to be able to buy construction materials.
Photos : Sharif Al-Sharif.
The Hebrew state, in effect, controls the delivery of cement and gravel because they are scared that it will fall into the hands of Hamas and be used for military purposes. Gaza residents therefore have to rely on the contraband products which pass through the tunnels from Egypt. According to the report published in November, Israel has approved the import of materials for 25 UNWRA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency] projects, approximately 7% of the whole UN reconstruction plan for Gaza. The NGOs denounce these efforts as not going far enough.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Peggy Bruguière.
"Gazans find themselves buying the ruins of their houses to build a new one"
Lina H Al Sharif is a blogger from Gaza.
I live opposite this house [photo at the top of the article], just across the street. Many houses here in Gaza have similar rooves, with metal sheets held in place by breezeblock for the roof.
In the past few days, the weather has been very bad. The cold is not the worst thing - at night the temperature never drops below eight degrees. The problem is that it rains so much and the wind blows very strongly. As a result, the dust from the street gets in everywhere, inside the houses, through broken windows and smashed doors.
Photo : Sharif Al-Sharif.
"The problem is quickly becoming a health risk as rats and bugs are proliferating, bringing diseases with them."
Of course the humanitarian organizations distribute blankets and plastic tarpaulins. But it's cement that is needed to protect people from the storms. Construction materials were already hard to come by and expensive after the start of the embargo [in 2007]. But since the war, things have got worse. The price of breezeblock has soared. That is why often building materials come from the ruins of the war. Gazans find themselves buying the remains of their houses to build another on!
Photo: Sharif Al-Sharif.
In the streets of Gaza, you don’t see homeless people, but living on the street or in a hovel is the same thing. In the poorest neighbourhoods, there is no running water nor a constant electricity supply. The problem is quickly becoming a health risk as rats and bugs are proliferating, bringing diseases with them.”
Photos : Waseem Shaker Abu-Sha'ban.