One year on from the 2014 Gaza conflict, most people's lives have not improved and an entire generation of young people face an increasingly bleak future with little hope of jobs, reconstruction or safety, Oxfam said today. Little has been done to prevent another conflict or ensure development to reverse Gaza's economic collapse.
Unemployment has risen to among the highest in the world, with 67.9 percent of people under 24 years old now without work. Even among graduates, unemployment is at 40 percent. The lack of opportunities is forcing growing numbers of young people to risk their lives or arrest attempting to climb over the border fence into Israel to look for work. The trauma of the conflict and the stress of living under blockade, unable to leave Gaza, left an estimated 300,000 young people in Gaza in need of psychosocial support.
The conflict dealt a further blow to Gaza's economy, which has been battered by eight years of the Israeli blockade, as it restricts people and goods from leaving and essential construction material from entering. The economy is increasingly reliant on international aid, on which 80 percent of people in Gaza now depend.
"If there is to be any hope of a lasting solution to the conflict, young people need a future they can look forward to - one in which they can study, pursue their dreams in life, be able to afford to start their own families with hope for their own children. Gaza needs urgent rebuilding, but its people also need to be able to move and trade, and to have jobs in a functioning economy. Long term peace will require economic development and ensuring people's basic rights, which can only come through an end to the blockade," said Catherine Essoyan, Oxfam's Regional Manager.
The slow rate of reconstruction means that many of today's teenagers in Gaza will be elderly parents by the time it is completed, with the latest estimates suggesting it will take more than 70 years to build the homes Gaza needs. While some repairs to damaged buildings have been made, not one of the homes that were completely destroyed by last year's bombing has yet been rebuilt. Twenty schools and kindergartens that were destroyed are still in rubble, as well as hospitals, clinics and other essential infrastructure. Palestinian political factions also need to work together to ensure reconstruction.
The government of Israel's enforced separation of Gaza from the West Bank has had a devastating impact on its economy and employment, with the World Bank recently estimating a cost of $3.9 billion to Gaza's current GDP. The number of people working in Gaza's once thriving construction industry has fallen by more than 50 percent since the blockade began, despite the urgent needs to rebuild Gaza after the conflict. Agricultural output dropped by 31 percent last year alone. Even for people in work, salaries have dropped by 15 percent since the blockade began in 2007, from 69.1 NIS per day down to 61.4 NIS per day. In the agriculture and fishing sector salaries have fallen by 26 percent. The closure of the border with Egypt has further restricted people's movement.
Despite last year's temporary ceasefire, violence against civilians has continued. There have been six Palestinian rockets fired into Israel, as well as around 170 test rockets fired, mostly into the sea, and more than 700 incidents of Israeli fire into Gaza in the same period. "Access Restricted Areas" inside Gaza and along the coast - enforced by the Israeli military - have cut Palestinian farmers off from up to a third of Gaza’s fertile farmland and prevented fishermen from making a living. Since last year's ceasefire there have been more than 300 incidents of naval fire at or towards fishermen alone - more than one every day.