With Gaza War Over, Massive Reconstruction Awaits

Urgent tasks require $367 million; international private donors have already pledged $177m.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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A Palestinian walks amid the rubble of a mosque in Gaza City, following an Israeli airstrike on Monday.
A Palestinian walks amid the rubble of a mosque in Gaza City, following an Israeli airstrike on Monday.Credit: AP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Rebuilding Gaza will be a huge undertaking, but urgent tasks that need to be done right now already have a price tag of $367 million, according to a request for funds drawn up by the United Nations and a group of aid agencies.

This week, several states and independent donors pledged $177 million for these basic measures, which is 48 percent of the amount needed.

In essence, the eventual rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip depends on the willingness of the international community to pay for the destruction wrought by Israeli bombing.

For now, the most urgent first steps towards reconstruction are being shared by a small group – the Ramallah-based Palestinian reconciliation government, the remnants of the Hamas government civil service in Gaza, the United Nations, and some aid organizations.

A partial list of their tasks includes:

Immediate steps to prevent disasters, in the wake of the war.

The location and safe removal of Israeli munitions that failed to detonate. Since the Palestinian police lack the means and knowhow to do this without risking lives, a special UN team has been charged with the mission.

Continuing to send badly wounded people for treatment abroad. About a third of the some 11,000 severely wounded people are expected to remain crippled as well as a third of the 3,000 children who were seriously wounded.

Treating the skin problems, infections and fungi that developed among many of the hundreds of thousands of displaced people, especially children, who still cannot return home. The reason is the shortage of water and utter lack of clean water. Four dermatologists came from the West Bank to treat people suffering from these conditions. Medicines for skin infections have also been sent from the West Bank in a bid to prevent an epidemic.

Continuing the daily supply of purified bottled water to the displaced people staying in schools. Continuing to locate breakdowns and repairing the water and sewage systems that were damaged by the bombardments. The technical teams can now work without the fear of being targeted themselves.

Continuing to distribute food and basic products (like mattresses and blankets), mainly to the displaced persons. Contributions of food, home utensils, mattresses, medicines and such are still coming in from the West Bank and from Israeli Palestinians. Due to arguments and misunderstandings with the Ramallah government, Gaza welfare officials have undertaken to carry out the distribution.

More than 17,000 housing units were destroyed or massively damaged in the bombardments. At least 120,000 people are homeless. The temporary solution could be setting up encampments, at least until winter, when prefabricated structures may arrive. Evacuating the staggering amounts of debris in the Shujaiyeh neighborhood, in the northern Strip and in the town of Khuza’a, and deciding what to do with it, was deferred to a later date.

Some 38,000 housing units were damaged in the bombardments, but can be lived in. The United Nations and Palestinian government must draft a plan to verify damage reports and allocate money for the glaziers, welders, carpenters, builders and other workmen needed, since most homeowners cannot afford to pay for them.

58 hospitals and clinics that were bombed are in need of immediate, even if partial, rehabilitation.

216 schools damaged by the bombings require immediate, even if partial, rehabilitation.

360 of the Gaza Strip’s 2,695 factories and workshops were damaged in the bombings and 126 of them have been completely ruined. The assessed losses reach some $190 million, according to a preliminary examination of the Gaza manufacturers association. The indirect losses, resulting from shutting the plants down for seven weeks, are at least $47 million.

Immediate aid to farmers, especially in the east and north of the Strip, who have lost all their property, including greenhouses, destroyed chicken and sheep pens and cowsheds, livestock that were killed, and fruit trees and crop fields that were destroyed.

Assistance to unemployed workers, in addition to the already unemployed people (45 percent of the population) before the war.

The Palestinian education ministry and UNRWA decided during the fighting that studies would be resumed two weeks after a lasting cease-fire was achieved. Half a million Gazan students yesterday began their “summer vacation.” The authorities and parents must make sure they don’t go near the piles of rubble, as they might be hurt by unexploded Israeli munitions.

Locating alternative buildings in lieu of schools that are still occupied by displaced people, or that will not be renovated in time.

According to UNRWA’s plan, the first two weeks of school will center on conversations, release from tension, locating especially severe trauma cases and treating children who have been orphaned or lost most of their families.

The teachers are supposed to hold the therapeutic conversations with the students after brief training. “Who will take care of us?” a teacher in an UNRWA school asked.

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