Tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza living in tents and damaged homes face a wet, cold and miserable winter as Israel’s blockade of the coastal territory continues to prevent the importation of building and reconstruction material.
During the last few weeks Gazans were given a brief reprieve from the oncoming winter as an unseasonal snap of warmish, sunny weather held off winter rain and plummeting temperatures.
But, during a tour of northern Gaza last week, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Maxwell Gaylard, and the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) called on Israel to open its border crossings immediately to avert a further deterioration in the humanitarian situation on the ground.
“With winter rains and cold weather now imminent, the people of Gaza are even more desperately in need of construction materials such as cement, roofing tiles and glass to build and repair homes destroyed and damaged during the Israeli military offensive of 2008/2009,” said Gaylard.
During Israel’s intensive bombing campaign in December/January Gaza’s infrastructure was heavily targeted leading to the destruction and damage of thousands of homes.
“Gaza urgently requires 268,000 square meters of glass for windows and 67,000 square meters of glass for solar water heaters or enough glass to cover more than 30 football pitches. More than 500 children are still living in tents,” Mike Bailey from Oxfam told IPS.
Damage caused to Gaza’s water, sanitation and electricity systems, exacerbated by Israel’s crippling blockade which forbids the import of most essential spare parts and fuel, has further limited the ability of aid agencies to supply essential services.
The lack of concrete water storage tanks means that fresh water can only enter water pipes when there is electricity to power water pumps. Backup generators — which rely on fuel — are needed to ensure power cuts do not lead to water shortages and pollution of water.
“The humanitarian situation is going to deteriorate if something doesn’t give,” Gaylard told IPS during a tour of the Ezbt Abbed Rabbo area of the northern Gaza Strip.