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UN: Gaza could be 'uninhabitable' by 2020

Sept. 1, 2015 9:32 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 22, 2015 11:57 A.M.)
A Palestinian youth looking at the destruction in Gaza City's al-Tuffah neighborhood on August 6, 2014. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
GENEVA (AFP) -- The Gaza Strip, ravaged by wars and nearly a decade of a grueling Israeli blockade, could become uninhabitable for residents within just five years, the United Nations development agency said Tuesday.

"The social, health and security-related ramifications of the high population density and overcrowding are among the factors that may render Gaza unlivable by 2020," the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) wrote in its annual report.

Gaza, a tiny enclave of just 362 square kilometers (about 225 square miles) squeezed between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea that is home to some 1.8 million Palestinians, counts one of the highest population densities in the world.

"Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 if current economic trends persist," the report said.

While the high density is not new, the situation has been exacerbated by three Israeli military operations in the past six years and nearly a decade-long economic blockade.

The blockade had "ravaged the already debilitated infrastructure of Gaza, shattered its productive base, left no time for meaningful reconstruction or economic recovery and impoverished the Palestinian population in Gaza," the report said.

"Short of ending the blockade, donor aid... will not reverse the ongoing de-development and impoverishment in Gaza," it said.

Socio-economic conditions in Gaza today are currently "at their lowest point since 1967," when Israel seized the territory from Egypt in its Six-Day War, according to the report.

The report estimated that the three military operations, including last year's devastating war that killed some 2,200 Palestinians and displaced half a million more, had caused economic losses close to three times the size of Gaza's local gross domestic product.

The 2014 war, which also left 73 Israelis dead, destroyed or severely damaged more than 20,000 Palestinian homes, 148 schools, 15 hospitals and 45 primary healthcare centers, UNCTAD said.

As many as 247 factories and 300 commercial centers were fully or partially destroyed, and Gaza's only power station sustained severe damage, it said.

Water crisis, record unemployment

Even before last year's conflict, Gaza's electricity supply was not even enough to cover 40 percent of demand, UNCTAD said, adding that 95 percent of water from coastal aquifers -- Gazans main source of freshwater -- was considered unsafe to drink.

Unemployment in Gaza meanwhile soared last year to 44 percent -- the highest level on record -- hitting young women especially hard, leaving more than eight out of 10 women out of work.

A full 72 percent of all households in Gaza are meanwhile struggling with food insecurity, and the number of Palestinian refugees who rely entirely on food distribution from UN agency has ballooned from 72,000 in 2000 to 868,000 by last May.

The report also detailed the devastating effect of the blockade imposed by Israel after Hamas captured an Israeli soldier in the summer of 2006 and tightened a year later after the group won elections and then ousted Fatah following fighting.

"It inflicted large-scale destruction on Gaza's local economy, productive assets and infrastructure, and affected numerous industrial, agricultural, commercial and residential facilities either directly or indirectly through debilitated infrastructure and acute shortages of inputs, water, electricity and fuel," it said.

Exports had basically been completely banned, as imports of anything besides the most basic humanitarian goods had been blocked.

The dire situation has left Gaza relying heavily on aid, but the report warned that while donor support would remain vital, it could not turn around the situation in the Strip alone.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
Comments
Outlier / USA
Essentially self-inflicted. Either Gaza will change or Gaza will become uninhabitable. It is up to Gazans to decide.
19/09/2015 02:19
Oh Vey / Canada
Gazans chose war over peace, violent jihad over cooperation, military over civilian infrastructure. They ignored water conservation and large scale desalination. They failed to develop the electrical generation capacity needed to supply electricity. Now they are paying for their choices.
19/09/2015 15:01
Bob Jacobson / USA
Gazans have supported and continue to support the people whose policies have gotten them to this desperate state. Right and wrong Is irrelevant. Israeli military strength is too strong. Gazans must find a non-violent way to make peace with Israel.
21/11/2015 18:09
FairLess / switzerland
David against Goliath ... How Hope could remain
there when this all about hate and the will to destroy
Palestine is not to debate anymore and now obviously
Successful .. How sad. Merry ? Christmas
24/12/2015 18:20
Outlier / USA
Fair, Gaza could choose a cooperative relationship with Israel, but Hamas has gone the opposite direction. The choice is Gaza's whether to change. If not, it deserves its fate.
09/01/2016 22:06
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