Gaza needs billions in aid to reverse years of Israeli restrictions: UN trade body

Gaza needs billions in aid to reverse years of Israeli restrictions: UN trade body
The besieged and war-battered Gaza enclave is in dire need of billions of dollars in economic aid, as the territory plunges into a further humanitarian crisis triggered by Israel's relentless and indiscriminate bombing of the Strip.
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Gaza has been under an Israeli siege since 2007, crippling its economy and humanitarian situation [Getty]

Gaza needs billions of dollars in international economic aid to compensate for years of restrictions that have stifled its economy and curbed its development, according to a report published on Wednesday by the United Nations trade body.

In its report on the economic development of the Occupied Palestinian Territory for 2022, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) highlighted the dire economic conditions in Gaza, even prior to the brutal Israeli strikes on the enclave that have killed over 6,500 people, including 2,704 children.

"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 said.

"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."

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Richard Kozul-Wright, director of UNCTAD's division on globalisation and development strategies, said it was difficult to fully assess how much money would be needed to buttress the economy in Gaza, which is under a complete siege imposed by Israel - cutting off water, fuel and food supplies as the humanitarian situation in the enclave rapidly worsens.

As many as 600,000 Palestinians are also displaced in the enclave, having fled their homes following intense heavy bombardment and Israeli threats of a looming ground offensive.

Moreover, Gaza has been under a sea, land and air blockade imposed by Israel in 2007.

"It's very difficult to make a proper assessment until things stop," he said, referring to the current conflict. "But it's going to be in the billions of dollars."

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Falling aid

Last year Palestinian authorities received only $250 million in donor budget support and $300 million for development projects, the report said.

There has also been a steep decline in foreign aid between 2008 and 2022, from $2 billion - representing 27 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) - to $550 million, or less than 3 percent of GDP, last year.

Nearly half of Gaza's population is unemployed and more than half lives in poverty, the report said. Although workers in Gaza have been allowed access to Israel's job market for the first time in recent years, the number of permits issued - around 1 percent of employed workers in Gaza - are too few to counter poverty.

"Border closures and repeated military operations have set in motion a vicious circle of economic and institutional collapse," it said.

"The impact is not confined to the short term. Indirect and long-term effects will reverberate through future generations." 

(Reuters and The New Arab Staff)