Gaza: Massive Shortage of Construction Materials

Gaza is currently plagued by a massive shortage of construction materials, making it the besieged enclave’s number one immediate problem. Estimates place the need at five million tons, mostly for restoring homes and basic infrastructure. However, between August 26 and November 20, only 62,928 tons of construction materials entered Gaza, just 1.2 percent of the overall need. Of these, 59,592 tons were destined for international humanitarian and Qatari-funded projects, some of which are part of Gaza’s overall reconstruction. However, the private sector plays a very important role both in the restoration of buildings in the Gaza Strip and in its overall economic recovery. As of November 20, only 3,336 tons of construction materials entered Gaza for the private sector. According to the Israeli NGO Gisha “We noted that yesterday, 30 trucks loaded with construction materials entered the Gaza Strip for reconstruction purposes, 28 of which were designated for the private sector and two designated for international organizations. We do not know how many tons of construction materials were on these trucks.”

2014-12-01Rainwater overflowed the streets and houses of the al-Nafaq neighborhood during the last week’s heavy rains. As was also the case last year, rainwater flooded the neighborhood and residents were forced to leave their homes by swimming. The al-Nafaq neighborhood, Gaza City, November 27, 2014 (Photo: Activestills)

The mechanism for overseeing the importation of construction materials into Gaza is still not entirely clear, but sources on the ground describe a complicated process which seriously impairs Gaza’s reconstruction. In the meantime, about 30,000 people are still living in UNRWA schools and tens of thousands of others are forced to live in crowded conditions with relatives or in temporary dwellings.

According to Gisha, in early November Israel permitted Gaza’s goods to be sold in the West Bank for the first time since the closure was imposed. So far, 31 trucks loaded with goods have left Gaza for the West Bank (compared with only ten during the same month last year, and those were carrying goods to be sold abroad). For now, the shipping of goods involves significant difficulties, and there is still a long way to go to ensure that any such venture is profitable for all those involved. Among the prerequisites are: the establishment of conditions for profitable business planning; opening of the Israeli market to Gaza’s products; and the ability to travel freely in order to facilitate the forming of business connections, the creation of markets, and the acquisition of professional training. According to Israel’s security establishment and supportive statements made on the international scene, the sale of Gazan goods is fundamental to the recovery of the Palestinian economy.