Following the success of partnering together in March 2017, the Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) and the US national committee of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA USA) are partnering again in the next six months to repair houses that sustained both minor and major damage for 83 more families living in the blockaded Gaza Strip.
“It’s been more than three years since many families homes were damaged during the 2014 assault on Gaza, but due to the scale of destruction, some families are just receiving the resources to repair their houses now,” said UNRWA USA Executive Director, Abby Smardon. “And now with the crippling energy crisis, the residents of Gaza are also living in darkness with just 2 hours of electricity a day, further restricting their ability to live normal lives. Despite this, the refugees we meet say they’re hopeful that they can one day have the opportunity to live and thrive without the burden of the illegal blockade. We are committed to partnerships like this one which significantly improve the quality of life for the families and communities served.”
Overall, through the emergency shelter repair and reconstruction program, UNRWA has been providing assistance to over 141,000 Palestine refugees whose houses were damaged or destroyed during the assault. To date, 65% of the 153,200 houses partially damaged in 2014 have either begun repairs or completed repairs to their houses.
Through this critical program, not only are families able to rebuild their houses, but 5,742 short-term construction jobs were created last year in a place where unemployment levels are among the highest in the world.
The Gaza Strip is merely twice the size of Washington, DC, but contains the sixth highest population density in the world. Due to the blockade, which severely limits movement in and out of Gaza, unemployment among youth and the population as a whole are at unprecedented highs, 68% and 42% respectively, out of a total population of 2 million people. Due to these circumstances, in 2012 it was predicted by the UN that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020. This month, a newly published UN report, 'Gaza – 10 years later' indicated that Gaza is effectively unlivable already. The services UNRWA provides to refugees in Gaza to 71% of the total population, has saved the Gaza Strip from being deemed unlivable sooner.
Restoration efforts in Gaza present many logistical hurdles that hinder sustained recovery. The ongoing blockade, now in its tenth year, makes the entry of construction supplies, and people, challenging, as all relief operations are funded solely through voluntary contributions.
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is also unique in that it is entirely man-made, but ZF and UNRWA USA are working together to address the housing shortage by providing residents with the means to repair their houses and bring back the security that only a safe house can provide.
For more information or details about ZF’s and UNRWA’s on-the-ground experience and impressions of contemporary life in Gaza, please contact us using the information below, or visit our websites at zakat.org and unrwausa.org.
CONTACTS: ZF Public Relations Coordinator, Nour Zein, (708) 233-0555, firstname.lastname@example.org; UNRWA USA Director of Communications, Laila Mokhiber, (202) 223-3767, email@example.com