GAZA'S DE-DEVELOPMENT TRAJECTORY
AND PROJECTIONS FOR THE FUTURE
Since the publication in 2012 of the UNCT's report on 'Gaza 2020", Gaza's population has increased by 400,000, reaching 2 million people by the end of 2016. Gaza's population is projected to further increase to 2.2 million by 2020 and to 3.1 million by 20302 - just 12 years away.
Reviewing the indicators which in 2012 led the UN to question whether Gaza would become 'unliveable' by 2020, it is clear that very little progress has been made to change the basic trajectory identified in 2012. The population has actually grown slightly faster than projected and neither the economy nor basic infrastructure and services have been able - even remotely - to keep pace. The findings of this report indicate that most of the projections for 2020 have in fact deteriorated even further and faster than anticipated.
In 2012, the UN projected an annual growth rate of real GDP per capita in Gaza of 0.6-1.5%, or even as high as 5.7-6.6% if a significant easing of trade and other restrictions were to take place. Since then, real GDP per capita in Gaza has instead decreased. Provision of basic services, including health and education, has continued to decline, as the needs for additional health clinics and classrooms and doctors, nurses and teachers, outlined in the 2020 report, have not been met. Instead, the number of doctors, nurses and hospital beds, relative to the population, declined by 15, 12 and 5 percentage points respectively between 2010 and 2017; and the teacher/student ratio declined by more than five percentage points over the past five years. It should be noted that these reductions do not apply to services provided by UNRWA, where the teacher-student ratio has improved in recent years.
The only indicator which has not deteriorated as quickly as was projected in 2012, relates to the water aquifer. The projection in 2012 that the aquifer would become unusable by 2016, has now been shifted to the end of 2017, thanks mainly to a doubling of water supplied by the Israeli water company and paid for by the Palestinian Authority (PA). But there is little to celebrate as by the end of this year, Gaza's only water source will be depleted, and irreversibly-so by 2020, unless immediate remedial action is taken.
In addition to the impact of the violent Hamas takeover and ensuing Israeli measures imposed in 2007, three rounds of armed hostilities between Israel and Hamas - with the most devastating round in 2014 - have dealt repeated blows to the Gazan economy and damaged essential infrastructure. As a result, the past three years have been focused mainly on the reconstruction of conflict-damages, drawing attention away from the desperate needs that Gaza faced even before the conflict in 2014. Huge reconstruction needs triggered an easing in imports of construction material to Gaza, particularly through the temporary Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), but access to material necessary to allow the Gazan economy to recover and expand remains highly restricted.
Despite the warnings issued by the UN in 2012, Gaza has continued on its trajectory of de-development, in many cases even faster than the UN had originally projected. Ongoing humanitarian assistance and international service delivery, especially through UNRWA's services, are helping slow this descent, but the downward direction remains clear.