In July 2014, the Israeli military launched a sustained assault on Gaza. For seven weeks, Gaza was invaded and bombarded from land, sea, and air. The human loss was great: at least 2,145 people were killed, including 581 children. One in four Palestinians in Gaza was forced to flee, and over 60,000 houses were partially or completely destroyed. Public services have been devastated, creating scarcity of water, energy, food, and shelter. Agriculture, industry, and trade are at a standstill, leaving ever more Gaza residents without a livelihood.
This devastating assault follows decades of occupation and border closures that have left our people in Gaza isolated, impoverished, and vulnerable. Gaza was already in the grip of a humanitarian and environmental crisis before the assault began. A seven-year blockade had suffocated the private sector, creating widespread dependency: 80 percent of Gaza residents were already dependent on aid, 47 percent were food insecure, and 40 percent were unemployed.
The National Consensus Government has developed this Palestinian National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan to provide a roadmap through the current humanitarian crisis to long-term development. The Gaza Early Recovery and Reconstruction Rapid Needs Assessment forms the backbone of the plan. Conducted by Palestinian ministries and agencies with the support of local and international partners, it uses the situation prior to the assault as a baseline but contextualizes it within the experience of Israel’s long and continuing blockade of Gaza.
This Plan was developed with the intention to transition from relief efforts to longer-term development needs across four sectors – social, infrastructure, economic, and governance. The Government will respond to the urgent and chronic needs of Gaza with relief, recovery, and reconstruction interventions in each of these sectors that will reinforce the foundations for longer term development and growth.
Gaza is an integral part of the Palestinian state and its gate to the Mediterranean. Its development is crucial for the viability of the Palestinian state and for the two-state solution. The Government will no longer accept the isolation and repression of our people in Gaza. Renewed growth and prosperity in Gaza is the Government’s moral and national imperative. Furthermore, there is no doubt that the success of the Government in the reconstruction of Gaza is key to ensuring the stability of Gaza, Palestine, and the region.
Through the National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan, the Government will take - and lead - a series of measures to uphold its responsibility towards Gaza and its residents and ensure rapid improvements to their lives, by working on multiple paths, in cooperation with partners in civil society, the private sector, and donors, while maintaining national ownership. Response is already ongoing, under the leadership of the Government through its Bridging to Recovery Initiative that guides the transition from emergency to early recovery.
Initial rapid assessments have provided early evidence on the scale of the damage caused by the 51-day assault and form the basis for the Government’s response plan. Nearly half a million people were displaced at the height of the conflict and more than 11,200 injured, resulting in an increase in the number of poor, unsheltered persons, disabled, orphans, and female-headed households. 373,000 children are now in need of psychosocial support. Fifty percent of all medical facilities sustained severe damage and Gaza’s emergency and primary health care systems are now overstretched and under-supported. At the same time, border closures have prevented the flow of crucial medical supplies and the transfer of high risk medical cases. Nearly 300 education establishments, from kindergarten to university level, suffered extensive damage and numerous others require repairs having been used as emergency shelters for the internally displaced during the assault.
Essential infrastructure, which was already at breaking point prior to the assault, has sustained severe damage. An estimated 20,000 tons of explosives fired by the Israeli military have left many buildings and large areas of Gaza reduced to rubble. At least 5,000 explosive remnants of war (ERW) are not yet secured or destroyed. Extensive disruption has been caused to water and sanitation networks, energy supplies and facilities, roads and bridges, and the telecommunications system.
Gaza’s private sector has suffered both direct damage to property, equipment, stock and raw materials, as well as indirect losses due to closure and reduced economic activity. The agriculture sector has seen widespread destruction of cultivated land, greenhouses, livestock and poultry farms, water wells, irrigation networks, and other productive assets. Seventeen percent of the total cultivated area has been completely destroyed. In the industrial sector, more than 20 percent of Gaza’s industrial enterprises and over 4,000 commercial and trade enterprises have been destroyed or damaged. Unemployment is set to rise significantly, defaults in the banking sector may become a problem, and investors, who were already hesitant to invest, are likely to be ever more cautious.
This Early Recovery and Reconstruction plan presents a comprehensive and prioritized response to the overwhelming damage across all sectors and geographic areas in in Gaza.
The response in the social sector will require $701 million. The Government will work with UNRWA and other agencies to extend a safety net to newly impoverished citizens, including through expanded cash transfers, food assistance, and distribution of non- food items. Health services will be restored by rehabilitating destroyed and damaged health infrastructure and equipment. In the education sector, the Government and UNRWA will focus on responding to urgent humanitarian needs amongst students, rehabilitating infrastructure, providing psycho-social and social protection support to students, staff, and families, and returning to education as soon as possible.
In the infrastructure sector, $1.9 billion will be required for temporary service provision as well as extensive rehabilitation and reconstruction. The Government will prioritize the removal of rubble and removal of ERWs, which pose a critical danger to citizens, particularly children. In the energy sector, additional supplies will be purchased to supplement the now repaired Gaza Power Plant. Access to potable water will be increased initially through provisional supplies, followed by rehabilitation of the destroyed and damaged infrastructure and equipment. Small-scale desalination units will also be developed, and pumps, generators, and chlorine will be distributed. The largest expenditure within the infrastructure sector will be on housing, where temporary housing solutions will be found rapidly for those who have seen their houses destroyed or damaged. Thereafter, repairs and reconstruction will begin. A program to upgrade and develop border crossings will be essential to ensure handling of the construction materials required for the recovery and reconstruction efforts.
The Government will invest $1.2 billion to rebuild the private sector and increase employment in Gaza, including restoring the productivity of the agricultural, fishing, industrial, and manufacturing sectors and the trades and services sector through rehabilitation, economic stimulation packages, as well as cash-for-work support.
With respect to the governance sector, the National Consensus Government will seize the opportunity presented by its recent formation to harmonize and integrate the previously divided government structures. Maintaining and expanding the operational capacity of the government will need to go hand in hand with the reconstruction of government institutions damaged and destroyed during the assault. These interventions will start immediately and require $183 million.
The total cost of relief, recovery and reconstruction is estimated at $4 billion. This is about three times the estimated cost after the 2008 assault and equivalent to 35 percent of the total GDP for the West Bank and Gaza combined. When compared to Palestine’s development budget for 2014 of $316 million, this is a huge shock. However, the Government sees the investment in Gaza as an investment in stability and the viability of a future Palestinian State.
Alongside direct funding for relief, recovery and reconstruction, the continuation of existing budget support for Palestine to Gaza in 2014-2017 will be a vital element for sustaining government functions in the West Bank and Gaza. An estimated $4.5 billion is required. Therefore the Government urges donors not only to complete the budget support for 2014, but also to commit to budget support for 2015-2017. Without this, proper functioning of the National Consensus Government, as well as recovery and reconstruction in Gaza, will be impossible.
Whilst Gaza’s rebuilding will be costly in the short -to medium- term, the Government’s vision for Gaza is one of sustainability and self-sufficiency, where Gaza is an integral driver of the a growing Palestinian economy, united with the West Bank and opened up to the rest of the world.