Zakat Foundation and UNRWA USA to rebuild houses in Gaza

Zakat Foundation and UNRWA USA to rebuild houses in Gaza

BRIDGEVIEW, IL— Zakat Foundation of America and UNRWA USA have renewed their partnership through the end of 2018 to repair 40 houses in the Gaza Strip damaged in its massive 2014 bombardment, making them safe for their displaced refugee families to return to them.

“This is a truly wonderful program,” says Halil Demir, Zakat Foundation executive director. “It provides Palestine refugees with the tools and funding they need to repair their houses, putting them in control of the process.”

The Zakat Foundation grant comes at a time of massive defunding of services benefiting Palestine refugees. The US government has cut all assistance to UNRWA as of August 31. That means the dramatic loss of more than $300 million, nearly 30% of UNRWA’s annual budget, which the US provided in 2017 to the UN agency, established in 1949 to care for hundreds of thousands of Palestine refugees displaced by war.

UNRWA now supports more than 5 million Palestine refugees across the Gaza Strip, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, delivering health care, education and other vital social services.

The US’s abrupt, colossal reductions make Zakat Foundation’s shelter grant to UNRWA USA all the more crucial. Last year, Zakat Foundation donors helped the agency restore houses for 63 refugee families in Gaza.

“We’ve repaired more than 5,000 damaged refugee shelters since 2014, but more than 2,000 houses remain uninhabitable,” says UNRWA USA Program Manager Lori Mosher. “The Gaza Strip endures a harsh, multi-layered, and steadily worsening humanitarian situation, and the defunding of the agency will only further perpetuate those conditions.”

A Mushrooming Humanitarian Emergency

Hemmed in by a security barrier, blockaded for more than a decade by land, air, and sea, and bombed out three times in the past 15 years, Palestinians in Gaza live with as little as 4 hours of electricity each day.

As much as 96% of their water supply—less than half the quantity UN experts say every man, woman, and child minimally needs to drink and bathe—is undrinkable due to contamination from untreated waste pumped into Gaza and the destruction of Gaza’s waste treatment facilities and generator plants.

UNRWA Crucial To Palestine Refugees in the Gaza Strip

UNRWA is Gaza’s gold standard organization when it comes to coordinating housing repairs, gliding over all the considerable political construction material hurdles while closely vetting every single material provider.

UNRWA eligibility professionals first verify proper ownership of a house. Then its engineers inspect residences to ensure habitability, itemize needed repairs, establish costs and quantities, and classify each case as minor—window, wall, roof damage, etc.—or major, general rebuilding.

With each bureaucratic step and supplier documented and in place, UNRWA directly deposits donor gifts into the accounts of approved families, who are responsible for overseeing work completion, or who have already carried out verified repairs through borrowing from family and friends.

The shelter repair program also provides employment to Palestine refugees through UNRWA and supply and contracting work.

By the end of 2017, UNRWA had helped more than 77,000 Palestine refugee families in Gaza from minor shelter repairs to total house reconstruction.

Zakat Foundation’s grant contributes to UNRWA’s strategic goal of assisting refugees to a decent quality of life, with basic shelter needs essential to meeting that standard.

For more information on this collaboration, please contact us using the information below, or visit our websites at zakat.org and unrwausa.org.    


Director of Communications
Laila Mokhiber
(202) 223-3767

Zakat Foundation and UNRWA Rush Ramadan Food to Refugees in the Gaza Strip

Zakat Foundation and UNRWA Rush Ramadan Food to Refugees in the Gaza Strip

Zakat Foundation of America donors and UNRWA have joined hands this Ramadan to deliver 772 UNRWA food assistance baskets filled with a three-month supply of provisions to nearly 4,000 of the most vulnerable Palestine refugees in the besieged Gaza Strip.

“Our supporters realize Gaza can no longer sustain the lives of the people locked inside it and wanted to rush food this Ramadan to those they know are fasting in gratitude to God despite their suffering” says Halil Demir, Zakat Foundation’s Executive Director. “UNRWA gives us that vital link.”

“We chose the Gaza Strip for this project because of its dire humanitarian situation,” says UNRWA USA Program Manager Lori Mosher.

Families selected come from Gaza’s skyrocketing population of abjectly poor -- each individual survives on a $1.74 a day or less. UNRWA social workers qualify each family with extensive home interviews. Nutrition experts specially select food basket items to counter malnutrition, which damages brain development and stunts physical growth in children, and increases the likelihood of sickness in pregnant women and the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and underweight newborns.

Here’s what a typical UNRWA food assistance basket contains:

ZF table.png

Gaza’s rising food insecurity doesn’t stem from lack of market availability but from its soaring poverty rate, which shot to 53% last year, up a staggering 14.1% from 2011. That translates to more than a million poor, including 400,000 children, an appalling indictment of Gaza’s blockade and the world’s apathy.

Gaza’s household poverty line has dropped to $693 for a family of five (two adults and three children), according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics’ (PCBS) “Poverty Profile in Palestine, 2017.” Fully two-thirds of Gaza’s poor, roughly 656,000, have tumbled beneath the “deep poverty” line of $554. That’s a nearly 17-point leap to 33.7% from 2011’s 21% mark.

Gaza’s poverty free fall traces directly back to the total land, air, and sea blockade imposed on it since June 2007, which has “undermined the living conditions in the coastal enclave and fragmented the occupied Palestinian territory and its economic and social fabric,” according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The blockade has spawned one of the highest unemployment rates in the world at 43.2% for refugees, with a whopping 60% youth unemployment level (though Gaza has a world-class 97% literacy rate, 14 points higher than the American literacy rate of 8%, according to an April 2017 study by the US Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy). UNRWA’s Gaza refugee assistance rolls have ballooned to 10 times their pre-blockade size in the year 2000.

The shockingly lethal response to the recent Great March of Return – nonviolent protests to break the 11-year blockade gradually strangling Gaza’s 2 million people – has gravely worsened the Strip’s already grim living conditions and further stressed its crumbling humanitarian infrastructure, where an alarming 80% of Gazans now depend on dwindling international relief aid.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl recently shared the following: “I truly believe that much of the world completely underestimates the extent of the disaster in human terms that occurred in the Gaza Strip since the marches began on March 30, 2018.”

Zakat Foundation plans to further help UNRWA (the largest public sector employer in Gaza with 13,000 staff, 98% of whom are refugees) reach its goal of providing 924,310 Palestine refugees with emergency food assistance, including 526,856 living in abject poverty.

For more information on this project and its outcomes, please contact us using the information below, or visit our websites at zakat.org and unrwausa.org.    


Zakat Foundation
Amal Ali
(708) 233-0555

Director of Communications
Laila Mokhiber
(202) 223-3767