With the homes of nearly 30,000 people in the Gaza Strip demolished or damaged beyond repair by the Israeli military since the start of the most recent outbreak of violence, the main United Nations agency helping Palestinian refugees has handed over 109 new homes to 116 families from Rafah refugee camp, the last part of a five-phase project.
"These homes are the visible expression of UNRWA's pledge to provide shelter for all these refugees made homeless by the conflict that has raged since September 2000," the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said in a statement.
The 72 buildings opened yesterday will house some 670 refugees. The overall project has provided a total of 431 new homes, and this last phase was funded by donations from Spain, Ireland and un-earmarked contributions to UNRWA's emergency appeals for a total cost of $2.2 million.
Plans for an additional 1,210 funded shelters for 1,285 families are currently underway in Rafah but UNRWA still needs some $28 million to cover the backlog requirement for a further 1,263 new shelters to house 1,352 homeless refugee families throughout the Gaza Strip.
UNRWA Commissioner General Karen Koning AbuZayd has urged the international donor community to increase its financial support for the Agency's re-housing activity and its plans for the post disengagement era after Israel's projected withdrawal from Gaza later this year.
These plans include major improvement of the refugee camps, major infrastructure development projects and expanding the Agency's current Job Creation and Microfinance and Microenterprise programmes. "These projects are aimed at making the refugees feel a tangible difference in their lives, which should help to put the peace process in the region back on the right track," Ms. AbuZayd said.
According to UNRWA statistics, by end of December 2004 a total of 2,991 shelters, home to over 28,483 people, had been demolished or damaged beyond repair in the Gaza Strip since the violence began in 2000. There has been a halt in house demolition since the beginning of this year, the agency said.