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Aid Agencies Gear Up for Massive Gaza Rehabilitation

By Lisa Schlein May 21, 2021

International aid agencies are assessing the damage caused in the Gaza Strip during recent fighting between Israel and Gaza militants to get an estimate of the likely cost of rehabilitating the Palestinian territory.

Aid agencies are expressing enormous relief at the cease-fire that has ended 11 days of clashes that they say caused unbearable and unacceptable costs for all civilian populations, including in Israel.

The World Health Organization says about 275 people have died, with more than 8,000 injured. It says 17 primary health care centers have been damaged, and essential drugs and medical supplies are in short supply.

Though the fighting has stopped, the director of the U.N. relief and works agency (UNRWA), Matthias Schmale, said people in Gaza are in danger of unexploded devices. Speaking on a video link from Gaza City, he said UNRWA is moving from emergency response to early recovery, which will involve more than just fixing what has been broken.

"This is a terrified, traumatized population," he said. "This is a level of trauma added on to others caused by three previous wars, caused by two years of Great Marches of Return, caused by COVID and now this. So, we cannot just look at this as physical rebuilding. We need to rebuild lives or help rebuild lives."

Schmale said it is too early to judge the cost of reconstruction, adding that a damage assessment needs to be done first.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it will take years, if not decades, for Gaza to recover from the damage inflicted on the territory and its people in less than two weeks. Fabrizio Carboni, the ICRC's regional director for the Near and Middle East, said emergency needs have to be tackled before recovery needs.

"It is mainly focused on surgery, health and water and energy repair. And after, we have more long-term needs to address, and it is about rebuilding infrastructures and … to address the crucial mental health needs," Carboni said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the U.N. will launch a full humanitarian appeal for Gaza as soon as possible. In the meantime, U.N. humanitarian coordinator Mark Lowcock said he intends to release $14 million from the Humanitarian Fund for the Occupied Palestinian Territories.



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