Unprecedented destruction of homes in Gaza not seen since World War II: UN

By mid-April, more than 33,000 Palestinians had been killed and more than 80,000 injured, according to the report. About 7,000 others are still missing, most of whom are believed to be buried under the rubble.

A destroyed neighborhood in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: AFP

“Every additional day that this war continues comes at a huge and increasing cost to the people of Gaza and all Palestinians,” said Achim Steiner, director of the United Nations Development Program.

The report by UNDP and the UN Economic Commission for West Asia paints a bleak picture of the struggle for survival in Gaza, where 201,000 jobs have been lost since the start of the war and the economy has slumped by the last quarter of 2023 81 percent has shrunk.

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Abdallah Al Dardari, UNDP regional director for Arab states, told a UN press conference at the launch of the report on Thursday that it is estimated that almost $50 billion in investments in Gaza have been wiped out by the conflict and that 1.8 million Palestinians are living in poverty has disappeared.

Gaza has been blockaded by Israel and Egypt since Hamas took power in 2007, placing strict controls on what enters and leaves the territory. Even before the war, the country faced “hyper unemployment” of 45 percent, rising to almost 63 percent among younger workers.

According to the report, the UN Human Development Index – which measures key issues for living a long and healthy life, acquiring knowledge and achieving a decent standard of living – has been set back more than two decades in Gaza.

The “productive base of the economy has been destroyed,” the report said, with sectors suffering losses of more than 90 percent. It estimates that Gaza’s GDP could fall by 51 percent by 2024.

“The scale and extent of damage is unprecedented and continues to increase as the war continues,” the report said.

At least 370,000 homes in Gaza have been damaged, with 79,000 completely destroyed, the report said, along with commercial buildings.

Damaged buildings in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: AFP

After previous conflicts between Israel and Hamas, homes were rebuilt at a rate of 992 homes per year, the report said. Even if Israel allows a fivefold increase in construction materials in Gaza, it would take until 2040 to rebuild the destroyed houses, without repairing the damaged ones.

Al Dardari said that after 51 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas in 2014, there were 2.4 million tons of rubble in Gaza.

In the current war, he said, 37 tons of rubble already need to be removed to make room for temporary shelters and other structures critical to returning Palestinians in Gaza to some semblance of normalcy.

“We haven’t seen anything like this since 1945, since World War II – that intensity in such a short time and the sheer scale of the destruction,” he said.

Al Dardari said the preliminary estimate of the cost of a three-year recovery program, which would return hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to temporary shelters in their original locations with community support, is between $2 billion and $3 billion.

The rough estimate for Gaza’s total reconstruction is between $40 and $50 billion, he said.

But Al Dardari stressed that the immediate focus now is on planning for a speedy recovery.

He said the U.N.’s senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, Sigrid Kaag, and other officials met with 22 U.N. agencies earlier Thursday and reviewed plans by each for the first years after the end of the war.

“We are on the brink of developing and finalizing a unified vision and framework for early recovery that is Palestinian-centered, led by Palestinians and owned by the Palestinian people,” Al Dardari said.