Ongoing concerns in the West Bank regarding the annual olive harvest, the Barrier and settlement activity in East Jerusalem feature in this month’s Bulletin, but the humanitarian consequences of the July-August conflict in the Gaza Strip remain the main focus. Ongoing assessments are revealing the extent and severity of the destruction, adding greater urgency to the response required to meet needs before winter arrives.
An assessment by the Shelter Cluster reveals that 29 per cent of Gaza’s housing stock has been affected, more than double the initial figure, and 100,000 people remain displaced in collective shelters or with host families. Indications are that food insecurity – already high in the Gaza Strip at 57 per cent – has also significantly increased, in part due to the loss of productive assets. The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture estimates that Gaza’s agricultural sector sustained over US$500 million in damages, around twice that sustained in Operation Cast Lead in 2008/09.
A WHO-led health assessment found critical shortages of essential medicines and other supplies, outdated or degraded medical equipment, health staff unpaid, and no guaranteed fuel supply for generators at health facilities. Although extensive repairs have restored 70 to 80 per cent of the water and sanitation network to pre-conflict conditions, significant constraints still impair the delivery of these services.
Also in September, the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) which allows for large amounts of basic construction materials to enter Gaza to enable the reconstruction of damaged and destroyed housing and infrastructure by the private sector was agreed to between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Government. The Israeli authorities also announced measures to ease exit permit criteria for Palestinians in Gaza to access Israel and the West Bank, and permitted over 1,000 Gaza residents to travel to the West Bank and East Jerusalem for the Eid al Adha holiday.
On 10 October, the new Palestinian national consensus government held its first meeting in Gaza, the first occasion in which high level Palestinian Authority officials have entered the territory since the Hamas takeover in 2007. On 12 October, US$5.6 billion was pledged at an international donor conference in Egypt, attended by almost 90 countries and international organizations. Approximately half of the funds are intended for the reconstruction of Gaza and the remainder for budget support for the Palestinian Authority.
Economic investment will be critical given the scale of recent economic deterioration in the oPt. According to recent projections by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), economic growth in the oPt declined from 6.3 per cent in 2012 to 1.9 per cent in 2013. Although a definitive assessment of the economic impact of the July-August conflict is not yet available, the IMF anticipates a loss of 15 per cent in 2014 in Gaza and continuing stagnation in the West Bank, with real GDP for the oPt declining by between 3.5 and 4 per cent for the year as a whole. On a more positive note, the IMF projects a rebound in Gaza in 2015 — on the assumption of increased aid to finance reconstruction — and modest improvement in the West Bank to make a combined growth rate of about 4.5 per cent.1
1Conflict-related casualties: includes all casualties that occurred in violent incidents immediately related to the Israeli occupation and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as military operations, search and arrest campaigns, clashes during demonstrations, attacks involving Israeli settlers, etc. These figures exclude other related casualties such as those in the context of access delays, the explosion of unexploded ordnance, reckless handling of weapons, collapse of tunnels, and internal Palestinian violence.