BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A major UN survey has found that up to 75,000 Palestinians remain homeless in the blockaded Gaza Strip nearly two years after Israel's last devastating offensive.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) made the findings in an unprecedented survey on Gaza's internally displaced families published Monday, warning that many families were at breaking point.
"After hearing from over 16,000 displaced families in the Gaza Strip, it is clear that most continue to live in desperate conditions," UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid Robert Piper said in a statement. "International support to end this situation is urgently needed."
The survey found that more than 80 percent of the families had borrowed money over the past year to survive, with 85 percent buying food on credit, and as many as 40 percent decreasing their consumption of food.
About 63 percent of the displaced Palestinians were renting living space, but nearly 50 percent feared being evicted, OCHA found, adding that the situation for women and girls was of "particular concern."
"Many families report living in shelter conditions that are lacking in safety, dignity and privacy, including living in tents, makeshift shelters, destroyed houses, or the open air," the UN body said in a statement.
Piper said: "Funding is needed more than ever. We face a funding gap to reconstruct some 6,600 houses, or about 37 percent of the overall caseload. Without this support, thousands of Palestinians will see no end to their displacement."
He said that UN assistance must go hand in hand with significant policy changes, including an end to Israel's near decade long military blockade of Gaza, as well as reconciliation between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas.
"Without such action, coping capacities of exhausted and vulnerable households risk being depleted altogether," Piper said.
The Gaza Strip has seen three wars with Israel since 2008, with Israel's 2014 offensive destroying 12,600 homes, and leaving another 6,500 severely damaged and 150,000 housing units uninhabitable.
Reconstruction efforts have been painfully slow -- hindered by Israel's blockade, ongoing disputes with the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, and a severe shortage of foreign assistance.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) has played a leading role in rebuilding destroyed homes in the beleaguered coastal enclave, but said that of the $720 million required for its emergency shelter program, donor countries have pledged only $247 million.
The UN warned in September last year that if current trends were to continue unchanged in Gaza, the territory would be uninhabitable by 2020.