The new shelters, which will house 20 families, or 129 refugees, are the concrete expression of UNRWA's pledge to re-house all those refugees whose homes have been destroyed in the strife and who have no alternative accommodation. According to the Agency's figures, by 31 May 2003 a total of 1134 shelters, home to over 10,049 refugee and non-refugee Palestinians, had been destroyed or damaged beyond repair in the Gaza Strip since the start of the conflict in September 2000.
Homeless families waiting for their new homes have already been provided with emergency assistance from UNRWA, in the form of tents, blankets, mats, kitchen utensils and food parcels. The Agency has also distributed emergency grants to cover some rental expenses. The construction project itself has also served to alleviate some of the hardships being felt in the Gaza Strip. It provided around 10,000 man-days of temporary employment for labourers, builders, and tradesmen in the Gaza Strip where unemployment is exceptionally high.
The new shelters opened today in Deir El-Balah were funded by generous donations from the Arab Popular Committee in the Syrian Arab Republic and by unearmarked contributions to the emergency appeals. The total cost of the project, including infrastructure work, was approximately $455,000.
The project was completed on time thanks to the willingness of the project's Palestinian builders to work extra hours when the site was accessible to make up for the many lost work days when closures prevented staff and materials from reaching the site.
In total in the Gaza Strip 132 new houses have now been built and 185 are under construction thanks to generous contributions from a number of donors. However UNRWA still needs more than $16 million to meet the current requirements for a further 700 new refugee shelters throughout the Strip.
For more information, please contact Issa Qarra on 972 8 677 7488 or Paul McCann on 972 59 428 008
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