Gaza needed billions in aid before Israel-Hamas war: UN

Before the conflict broke out on October 7, the economic conditions in Gaza were dire after years of the Israeli blockade.

A Palestinian boy looks on during a search for casualties at the site of Israeli strikes on houses in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Gaza already needed billions of dollars in international aid to compensate for years of Israeli blockade before the Israel-Hamas war broke out, a United Nations report states.

In its report on the economic development of the occupied Palestinian territory for 2022 released on Wednesday, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said that conditions in the enclave had been “stifled” by years of restrictions before October 7.

“Donors and the international community need to extend significant economic aid to repair the extensive damage Gaza has experienced under prolonged restrictions and closures and frequent military operations, which has stifled the economy and decimated infrastructure,” the report found.

“While donor aid is important to assist the people of Gaza, it should not be viewed as a substitute for ending the restrictions and closures and calling on Israel and all parties to bear their responsibilities under international law,” UNCTAD states.

INTERACTIVE Gaza 16 years of living under blockade-OCT9-2023
(Al Jazeera)

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Richard Kozul-Wright, director of UNCTAD’s division on globalisation and development strategies, said it was difficult to assess how much help Gaza would now need until the conflict stops.

“But it’s going to be in the billions of dollars,” he warned.

In Gaza, gross domestic product was 11.7 percent below the 2019 level and close to its lowest since 1994, the report found.

There was also a decline in aid between 2008 and 2022, from $2bn, or 27 percent of GDP, to $500m, or less than 3 percent of GDP, last year.

The report also found that nearly 50 percent of Gaza’s population is unemployed, and more than half live in poverty.

A Palestinian man looks on during a search for casualties
A Palestinian man looks on during a search for casualties at the site of Israeli air strikes on houses, in Khan Younis [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Although workers in Gaza have been allowed access to the job market in Israel, the number of permits issued, accounting for about 1 percent of employed workers, is too small to counter poverty.

“Border closures and repeated military operations have set in motion a vicious circle of economic and institutional collapse that has rendered Gaza a case of “development in reverse,” the report added.

“The impact is not confined to the short term. Indirect and long-term effects will reverberate through future generations,” UNCTAD summed up.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies