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1.8 million more Palestinians doomed to poverty if Gaza war persists

Guest content
09 May 2024

Nearly seven months into the Gaza war, the UN warns that to rebuild and restore the buildings lost in this period, it would take several decades, and to revitalize Palestine’s economy, it would be a great undertaking. Meanwhile, the great losses in housing and public services and the economic stall only threaten to push even more Palestinians into poverty, writes Naureen Hossain for IPS news

Last week, the UNDP and the Economic and Social Commission in Western Asia (ESCWA) released an update to their joint report, ‘The Gaza War: Expected Socio-Economic Impacts on the State of Palestine,’ first released in November 2023. The initial report projected that the war would see a projected loss of over 12 percent in Palestine’s GDP and an increase in the poverty rate of over 25 percent if it persisted for a three-month period as metrics for the losses that the state of Palestine would incur as a result of the war.

The latest report reveals the predicted losses that Palestine will suffer after nine months of the conflict. According to projections that estimate the war’s duration up to a nine-month period, the poverty rate could exceed 60 percent. As Director of the Regional Bureau for the Arab States for UNDP Abdallah Al Dadari explained to reporters, an additional 1.8 million people have fallen into poverty in Palestine since the beginning of the war.

Under the UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI), it’s projected that at six months, Palestine will have seen a significant drop, reaching 0.677 compared to 0.716 in 2022, which sets back human development by 17 years. This will only decrease based on certain metrics, such as reduced life expectancy, a decline in the gross national income (GNI), and reduced years of schooling.

In Gaza alone, the setback in development exceeds more than 30 years under this scenario, as it suffered a drop of 0.598 percent in 2023, compared to 0.705 percent in 2022. Should the war persist for nine months, the HDI will likely see a decrease of 0.551 percent, which sets Gaza back to the 1980s.

Almost all economic activities in Gaza have taken a sharp decline since the start of the war, the report stated, with all major sectors reporting significant losses during the last quarter of 2023. This has had ripple effects across the entire occupied Palestinian territory. The unemployment rate in Palestine reached 57 percent in the first quarter of 2024, as over 507,000 jobs were lost across the territory, including 160,000 workers from the West Bank.

Palestine’s GDP has also declined by 22.5 percent for the year 2023 and could further decrease by 51 percent in 2024. The war has undoubtedly aggravated the socioeconomic costs that will impact post-war recovery and development across the state of Palestine.

“Every additional day of fighting is only adding to the cost of rebuilding,” Al Dadari told reporters during a virtual briefing. Since the war began in October 2023, the destruction and damage to physical infrastructure, amounting to USD 341.2 million in education (schools and universities), USD 503.7 million in WASH, and USD 553.7 million in health facilities, directly affect basic needs provision in Gaza. The report notes that foreign aid for reconstruction and recovery of basic service infrastructure will be essential for the re-establishment of these services, and it will take decades and considerable financial resources to restore socioeconomic conditions in Gaza to pre-war levels.

Over thirty of Gaza’s hospitals have been destroyed since the war began, and over 400 schools and universities have been totally or partially destroyed under military fire.

Al Dadari emphasized the importance of bringing immediate emergency relief into Gaza that would help bring in emergency shelters. He remarked that a 3-year programme would cost up to USD 3 billion, with the overall cost ranging anywhere from USD 40 to 50 billion to rebuild the lost infrastructure in the long term. To even make room for the temporary emergency shelters and facilities that will be needed, efforts will need to be made to clear out the reported 37 million tons of debris in Gaza.

In addition to addressing the immediate needs of civilians in Gaza, UNDP will also be focused on planning a reconstruction plan with the full support of the UN and its organizations. “Our main concern is to be ready on any possible day to bring in the shelters and any necessary services. That is what we are doing in resource mobilization,” said Al Dadari.

“Unlike previous wars, the destruction in Gaza today is unprecedented in scope and scale, and coupled with the loss of homes, livelihoods, natural resources, infrastructure, and institutional capacities, it may have deep and systemic impacts for decades to come,” said ESCWA Executive Secretary Rola Dashti.

“Unprecedented levels of human losses, capital destruction, and the steep rise in poverty in such a short period of time will precipitate a serious development crisis that jeopardizes the future of generations to come,” said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner.

Original source: Inter Press Service

Image credit: Wafa, Wikimedia Commons