Anindita Dutta Roy
Six months have passed since the international community promised aid and radical change for Gaza after the third and most destructive military operation in the last six years. Gaza’s 1.8 million children, women and men still remain cut off from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as the rest of the world, by Israel’s land, air and sea blockade.
"Life is the same. People are the same." My colleague Sahar emphasises this when I ask her how it feels to travel from Gaza to the West Bank. She was able to make this trip for the very first time last month.
Palestinians are still waiting for aid
Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, just over an hour away from each other, shouldn't be all that different. But since they are separated, and stopped from meeting or studying or doing business with each other, the fact that they are the same people needs repeating.
Much as they want to rebuild their homes and their lives on their own, the blockade has left them locked inside the coastal strip and waiting for foreign aid, yet again.
As many as 100,000 people are still homeless
“I have a nursing diploma. I don’t want handouts. All I want is an opportunity to work,” says Nehad Ali. Her small house in Beit Lahia was bombed and reduced to rubble during the war.
Like Nehad, 45% of Gaza's population, and almost two third of its young people, are desperately seeking employment. Israel, and now Egypt, stop them from moving or working freely, pushing people into deep poverty and depression.
80% of Gaza’s population was reliant on foreign aid before the 2014 war, which destroyed most of an already dying economy. As many as 100,000 people are still homeless; not a single permanent house has been rebuilt.
When heavy rains hit Gaza during the winter months, 26-year-old Hajer Ahmed watched her temporary trailer tilt over and fall, straight into the hole left by the bomb that had demolished her house. “What did we do? We found a truck and pulled the rooms back up again,” she told me.
I tend to remember what Hajer said when I think of Gaza, and wonder if it’s heading (as many say) toward another war, or some sort of stable future.
Where are the promised $3.5 billion donations?
Ahead of the donor conference in October last year, the Palestinian Authority announced a $4 billion recovery plan for Gaza. International donors promised to pay $3.5 billion, but have given only about 27% of this so far.
Even if all the promised money were to arrive tomorrow, the blockade would not allow the Palestinian Authority’s plan to be realised.
Foreign governments must show political courage
Only if the international community shows the political courage to push to end the blockade of Gaza, enabling the free movement of its people and economic activity, will it see real revival and development – led by its own people and resources. Nobody is claiming that this is easy to achieve.
The Palestinian leadership also needs to overcome their political divisions to prioritise the critically needed reconstruction and recovery. But unless these underlying issues are addressed, foreign governments and their aid will only keep treating the symptoms of Gaza’s misery.
How can you help?
We're supporting #OpenGaza's campaign to lift the blockade and Gaza. Join us.