As Egypt prepares to host an international conference in Sharm el-Sheikh (starting 2 March) the ICRC warns that emergency aid and reconstruction will not be enough to resolve the crisis in Gaza unless there is a prospect of a lasting peace.
More than a month after the end of the conflict, tens of thousands have had their homes partially or completely destroyed and thousands still remain without access to water. The damage from the January conflict comes on top of Israeli restrictions on the movement of goods and people into Gaza. Most materials essential for rebuilding and restoring the economy are unavailable. In turn, the numbers of people in Gaza without jobs and a regular income has risen sharply. Poverty rates already stood at 70 percent before the conflict, and many are now left struggling to cover basic costs.
What is needed, the ICRC says, is sustainable economic development. Emergency assistance will not suffice. Gazans need machinery and spare parts. As a first step, the ICRC is calling for an end to Gaza's isolation, and a lifting of restrictions on the movement of people and goods.
Since the conflict ended five weeks ago, normal life is starting to return in the Gaza Strip. The schools have reopened, the debris is being cleared away and some supplies are again available for sale in the shops and markets. But the damage from the bombings has wiped out much of the industrial sector of the Gazan economy. Amr Hamad, the Executive Manager of the Palestinian Federation of Industries says the latest conflict "left more than 270 industrial establishments totally or partially damaged." According to Hamad, more than 35 thousand employees have lost their jobs in the industrial sector, but despite this, he remains optimistic for the future: "We assure everybody if the borders are opened, in one year we can again rebuild the whole of the Gaza Strip."
Tayseer Abu Eida, owned a concrete factory which it is estimated will cost around 15 million dollars to rebuild. Most of the 100 people who worked there are now unemployed.
In Gaza City, the shops are again open for business but there are still shortages and prices for basics have sky-rocketed. Oussama Boustan managed to open his supermarket for brief periods during the war even though there was very little for sale. But now the conflict is over, Boustan says, " the crossings should be open to the outside world so that we could have cement and steel brought in, jobs could be found and then there would be work."
Salah Ahmed Saleh is a pharmacist. He has five children and until the January conflict lived in a house with 14 members of his family. His home was destroyed during the conflict and he wonders if it will ever be possible to resume a normal life. "Our situation goes from bad to worse," he says. "There is an embargo. The ingredients of a good life do not exist either for an individual, a child or a family."