[News] UN halts aid to Gaza homeless after funding shortfall

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jan 28 11:48:27 EST 2015


  UN halts aid to Gaza homeless after funding shortfall

Submitted by Maureen Clare Murphy on Wed, 01/28/2015 - 02:47
*http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/maureen-clare-murphy/un-halts-aid-gaza-homeless-after-funding-shortfall*

A shortfall in funding has forced UNRWA 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/unrwa>, the United Nations agency 
for Palestine refugees, to suspend aid to thousands of Gaza residents 
whose homes were destroyed or damaged during Israel’s military assault 
last summer.

It is another bitter reminder for Palestinians in Gaza that they are 
left to fend for themselves after eight years of siege 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/gaza-siege> and a series of major 
military assaults that have turned the tiny coastal territory into a 
disaster zone cut off from the rest of the world.

UNRWA stated today 
<http://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/press-releases/lack-funds-forces-unrwa-suspend-cash-assistance-repairs-damaged-and> 
that there is a shortfall of $585 million for the $720 million the 
agency says is required for the tens of thousands whose homes need 
repairing and for rental subsidies to those made homeless.

“While some funds remain available to begin the reconstruction of 
totally destroyed homes, the agency has exhausted all funding to support 
repairs and rental subsidies,” UNRWA said, adding that the freezing of 
assistance may cause large numbers of refugees to return to agency 
schools for shelter.

More than a quarter of Gaza’s population was displaced 
<http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/mira_summary_mak_8september2014_english.pdf> 
during last summer’s violence, with nearly 300,000 seeking shelter in 
UNRWA schools.

Not even these emergency shelters were spared by Israel — UNRWA schools 
were hit by shells or other weaponry in seven instances 
<http://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/official-statements/statement-commissioner-general-opening-school-year-gaza>; 
children were killed by Israeli artillery 
<http://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/official-statements/unrwa-strongly-condemns-israeli-shelling-its-school-gaza-serious> 
as they slept on the floor of a classroom in one such UN designated shelter.

Twelve thousand displaced Palestnians in Gaza continue to take shelter 
at UNRWA schools, the agency said today.

“UNRWA in Gaza has so far provided over $77 million to 66,000 Palestine 
refugee families to repair their homes or find a temporary alternative,” 
Robert Turner, UNRWA director in Gaza, is quoted as saying in the 
agency’s statement.

Of the $5.4 billion pledged for the reconstruction of Gaza at a Cairo 
conference last October, half of which the Ramallah-based Palestinian 
Authority immediately earmarked for itself 
<http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/maureen-clare-murphy/who-benefits-billions-pledged-gaza-reconstruction>, 
“virtually none of it has reached Gaza,” Turner added.

“It is unclear why this funding has not been forthcoming,” he said.


    Refugees

More than 96,000 refugees’ homes were destroyed during the 51 days of 
relentless attacks in July and August, according to UNRWA.

The majority of Gaza’s estimated 1.8 million residents are refugees who 
were displaced from towns, cities and villages in present-day Israel 
during the establishment of the state in 1948 and who have since been 
denied their right to return.

Along with the West Bank and Syrian Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip has 
been under Israeli military occupation since 1967.

More than 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza, including at least 500 children, 
were killed during Israel’s summer bombardment.


    Babies freeze to death

The task of rebuilding Gaza’s housing stock — at least five percent of 
which was destroyed or badly damaged during the last onslaught — is a 
matter of life or death.

“People are literally sleeping amongst the rubble, children have died of 
hypothermia,” Robert Turner said.

Two infants in Gaza died of cold exposure during a winter storm that 
struck the region earlier this month, and which also caused the 
temporary displacement of hundreds of people due to flooding, according 
to the UN monitoring group OCHA 
<http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_protection_of_civilians_weekly_report_2014_01_15_english.pdf>.

Palestinians in Gaza are enduring the cold winter months with only a few 
hours of electricity each day 
<http://electronicintifada.net/content/gaza-struggles-cope-siege-and-storms/14186>.

OCHA recorded the deaths of two small children who died after their home 
in the Beach refugee camp caught fire on 3 January.

“Initial investigations suggest that the fire was caused by a candle,” 
OCHA stated. “According to Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, 26 people, 
including 21 children, have died in electricity shortage related 
incidents since 2010.”

Gaza’s sole power plant has not run at full capacity for several months 
because of the lack of funds for fuel.

According to OCHA, the funding crisis is due to the expiration of a tax 
exemption for fuel purchases granted by the Ramallah-based Ministry of 
Finance. The further impoverishment of Gaza’s population this summer, 
resulting in the sharp decrease of revenues collected for energy 
consumption, is also a factor, the group says.


    Israeli control

While UNRWA says that its cash assistance program has been frozen 
because of funding gaps, the rebuilding of Gaza is ultimately under the 
control of the very party responsible for its destruction.

The secret terms of a UN-backed Gaza reconstruction mechanism “include 
onerous controls of building supplies and intrusive monitoring of 
Palestinian families seeking to rebuild homes destroyed by Israel,” The 
Electronic Intifada revealed 
<http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/oxfam-finally-breaks-silence-uns-failed-gaza-reconstruction-mechanism> in 
October.

Israel meanwhile continues to violate on an almost daily basis 
<http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/maureen-clare-murphy/israel-violates-gaza-ceasefire-nearly-every-day> 
the ceasefire that it reached with armed groups in Gaza on 26 August.

The call from Palestinians in Gaza at the time was that there should be 
no such agreement so long as Israel’s years-long siege — imposed in an 
act of collective punishment after the elected Hamas government took 
control over the administration of the internal affairs of the territory 
— remains in place.

“For the last seven years, Israel has subjected the Gaza Strip to a 
strict closure. By shutting the borders, Israel has slowly suffocated 
Gaza, subjecting us to a process of deliberate de-development,” Raji 
Sourani, director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, commented 
<http://electronicintifada.net/content/why-gaza-ceasefire-isnt-enough/13692> 
amidst the summer’s terrible violence.

“A ceasefire is not enough. It will not end the suffering. It will only 
move us from the horror of death by bombardment to the horror of death 
by slow strangulation,” he added.

Though the terms of the ceasefire agreement were never made public, they 
reportedly called for the opening of Gaza’s crossings for the movement 
of people and goods.

That has not happened, and the reconstruction mechanism ensures that 
Israel’s stranglehold on Gaza is tighter today than before the summer war.

And once again Palestinian refugees in Gaza are living in tents, like 
they did after their original displacement in 1948.



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