Gaza war inflicts catastrophic damage on infrastructure and economy

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Nov 17 (Reuters) – Israel’s land, sea and air assault on the Gaza Strip, triggered by Hamas’s cross-border attack on Oct. 7, has brought upheaval and destruction to the Palestinian territory on a scale never before seen in the enclave.

Here are latest estimates from international organisations on the socio-economic impact of the conflict:

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), quoting data from the Palestinian public works and housing department, said Israeli attacks had destroyed more than 41,000 housing units and damaged more than 222,000 housing units. In all, it said at least 45% of Gaza’s housing units had reportedly been damaged or destroyed.

It was impossible to independently verify the numbers, but Reuters reporters in Gaza say the destruction is on a huge scale. An Israeli reporter who was taken to see the Gazan town of Beit Hanoun by the Israeli military reported on Nov. 12 that “barely a single inhabitable building remains standing”. More than 52,000 people had lived there before the war.

In a Nov. 15 report, OCHA said 279 educational facilities had reportedly been damaged, more than 51% of the total, with none of Gaza’s 625,000 students able to access education.

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, as of Nov. 16, only nine of the enclave’s 35 hospitals in Gaza were partially functioning. The rest have shut down formal medical services.

OCHA said 55 ambulances in Gaza had been damaged, with critical shortages reported of drugs and blood products.

The U.N. Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) said on Nov. 16 that due to an absence of fuel, 70% of the people in southern Gaza had no access to clean water.

The seawater desalination plant in Khan Younis in the south was operating at 5% of its capacity, UNRWA said, while the two water pipelines from Israel were operating. In the north of the territory, the water desalination plant and the Israeli pipeline are not functioning.

Most of Gaza’s 65 sewage pumps were out of service, OCHA said, and raw sewage has started to flow in the streets in some areas.

OCHA said in the north of Gaza, no bakeries had been active since Nov. 7 due to the lack of fuel, water, wheat flour, and structural damage. It said the last functioning mill in Gaza was destroyed on Nov. 15.

“The situation is catastrophic,” OCHA said.

On average 500 trucks of food and goods entered Gaza each day before the conflict. All imports were halted after Oct. 7 and only resumed on Oct. 21. Between then and Nov. 14 a total of 1,139 trucks carrying humanitarian aid had crossed into Gaza.

On Nov. 16, Gaza’s telecommunications services shut down after fuel used to run generators ran out. OCHA said several communication infrastructures in south Gaza were hit and damaged on Nov. 14. OCHA said blackouts jeopardised the provision of life-saving assistance to civilians. UNRWA said that due to the communication shutdown, it was unable to manage or coordinate humanitarian aid convoys starting Nov. 17.

In a joint report, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said on Nov. 5 that around 390,000 jobs had been lost since the start of the war.

The socio-economic situation of Gaza was already dire before the war, with the poverty rate estimated to have reached 61% in 2020. In a preliminary estimate, the U.N. agencies said poverty was expected to rise by between 20% and 45%, depending on the duration of the war. They also forecast that the war would cost Gaza between 4% and 12% of gross domestic product in 2023.

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