The UN has warned war-ravaged Gaza could be unlivable in five years

Breaking point
Breaking point
Image: Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
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Three wars in six years coupled with eight years of economic blockade have “ravaged” the infrastructure and “shattered” the productive base of the Gaza Strip, part of the occupied Palestinian territories in Israel. If trends continue, Gaza could be unlivable by 2020.

That’s the grim conclusion of a recent report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, which describes Gaza’s economic prospects as “bleak.” The report echoes similar findings by the UN Relief and Works Agency, which also warned in 2012 that Gaza could hit breaking point by the end of the decade.

The war “has effectively eliminated what was left of the middle class, sending almost all of the population into destitution,” the report says. Seventy-two percent of households are now affected by food insecurity and the majority of the population depends on humanitarian aid to meet basic needs. In 2014, in an area of 2 million, unemployment shot up to a record 45% and youth unemployment is around 60%. Unemployment particularly affected young women, with more than eight out of 10 out of work.

Gaza has undergone a process of so-called de-development, where progress has actually reversed. The ongoing blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt has led to mass unemployment and this latest UN report notes that “operation edge” had a particularly brutal impact on socioeconomic conditions, displacing almost a third of Gaza’s population. The military action in 2014 not only resulted in the death of 1,462 civilians in Gaza, but also caused $6 billion in damages as more than 20,000 homes, 148 schools, 15 hospitals, and 45 primary healthcare centers were destroyed.

The report highlights the intimate relationship between Gaza’s economic development and political stability, especially in the relatively-normal 1995–1999 period. Socioeconomic conditions are thought to now be at their lowest point since 1967.

The report warns that no amount of aid can rebuild and develop Gaza if military strikes and bombardment continue.