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Oxfam: Funds pledged for Gaza could take decades to reach people

Responding to the billions in aid pledged during the Cairo donor conference to rebuild the Gaza Strip, Oxfam International has warned that this money could take decades to reach Palestinians.

“The bulk of [the] money pledged at the global donor conference to rebuild Gaza will languish in bank accounts for decades before it reaches people,” Oxfam said in a press release.

The international confederation said that the money could help the people of the Gaza Strip only if “long-standing Israeli restrictions on imports are lifted.”

Over the weekend, donors from 50 countries pledged $5.4 billion to help reconstruct Gaza, half of which is allocated for rebuilding houses, schools and other facilities destroyed by Israeli occupation forces during the latest 51-day war on Palestinians in the Strip.

Oxfam said that under Israel’s current restrictions on the level of imports, “it could take more than 50 years to build the 89,000 new homes, 226 new schools and the health facilities, factories and water and sanitation infrastructure that people in Gaza need” right now.

Oxfam Regional Director Catherine Essoyan added that: “Unless donors step up pressure to end the blockade [of Gaza], many children made homeless by the recent conflict will be grandparents by the time their homes and schools are rebuilt.”

During the 51 days of war in Gaza, Israeli forces destroyed lives, livelihoods and essential services, with more than 100,000 people currently homeless and 450,000 without running water.

“Aid agencies are providing desperately needed emergency assistance, but long-term reconstruction and development requires more than money,” Essoyan noted, adding that “these will be empty pledges unless donors also ensure that this aid can actually be delivered.”

Essoyan also warned that the people in Gaza would suffer even more unless the rebuilding starts very soon. “Winter is coming and people without homes cannot afford to wait,” she said.

Regarding the Israeli blockade on Gaza, Oxfam said: “Reconstruction require around 700,000 truckloads of construction materials including aggregates, cement and steel bars. In the first half of 2014, an average of around 1,100 truckloads was permitted to enter Gaza each month. At this rate it would take more than 50 years to import enough construction material.”

Calling for putting an end to Israel’s aggression against the Palestinians in Gaza, Oxfam said “the international community must act now to ensure that this is the last time we have to rebuild Gaza, and to take a long-term approach to ending the crisis.”

For her part, Essoyan stressed that: “We cannot let this terribly costly and wasteful cycle of destruction continue. This is the third time in six years that the international community is pledging to rebuild Gaza after a war. It is time to address the root causes of this conflict once and for all.”

She added: “We need to ensure people in Gaza have their rights as well as aid.”

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