Humanitarian Costs in the West Bank

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Jerusalem – The estimated repair cost for the Occupied West Bank cities have been released by a group of relief agencies regarding the damage that occurred during “Operation Defense Shield” by Israel during the last 34 days. A group of International Relief agencies assigned different relief agencies and International organizations to enter into the West Bank cities to evaluate the infrastructure, cultural and building damage that occurred during the latest Israel incursion. The estimates of physical/institutional damage were presented on Wednesday in Oslo to various donors. Since the beginning of the Intifada over 18 months ago, there has been deaths and suffering on both sides, erosion of basic human rights and a significant decline in the health and welfare of large sections of the population in Palestine.

Total estimated damage inside of the West Bank is 267 million U.S. dollars. A total of 71 million is estimated for the cities infrastructure that includes roads repair, water and sewage reconstruction, electricity and solid waste repair. A total of 127 million is designated for the private sector of Industrial, commercial and 64 million is estimated for private housing re-construction. Educational and Health building damage is estimated at 6 million.

An estimated 600 homes have been destroyed and a further 200 are uninhabitable in Jenin Camp. A local family in Jenin donated some land next to the UNRWA office to establish a “tent camp”. UNRWA has delivered 64 tents that are currently not occupied until installation of electricity, water and sewage is complete. Only 43 families have registered to move into the camp. The rows of tents are likened to photographs taken in 1948 with the establishment of the first refugee camps. Homeless families in the West Bank cities currently reside with neighbors; friends and other family members that are located in the same cities, because of the closures local residents cannot re-locate to another city where their close family members may live.

Preliminary estimates from UNRWA estimates the affected population caseload is approximately 600,000 refugees in the camps and outside as well as other Jenin residents. Assistance is needed for food aid, nutrition support, health care, psychosocial support and education.

The curfews of major towns inside of the West Bank have been lifted, but it should be noted that access in and out of these towns are limited only to humanitarian workers and the international community. Local residents are restricted in movement from one village to another. Delivering supplies into the cities has proven to be quite a process for the different relief organizations because the agencies need pre-approval from the IDF providing detailed registration of the products and car /truck plate numbers for entrance, and listing the ID numbers of the workers who want to enter, before approval. There are reports of up to 8-hour delays at the some of the checkpoints even with pre-approval from the IDF for delivery of supplies. With Bethlehem still under curfew, UNRWA and other relief agencies use the curfew lift of every five or six days as a “window of opportunity” to attempt to deliver food and medical supplies in the area.

Dangerous buildings is a large concern inside of Nablus and Jenin, structures have fallen and injured some of the residents during cleanup. The buildings have been inspected and those that are dangerous are tagged with red and white caution tape warning against entrance. Some of the buildings are being propped up to prevent further hazards.

De-mining programs need to be established to allow people to resume their normal lives in safety. The death of a child was caused by an explosion due to a unexploded mine in Jenin. Local residents are not educated in mine awareness and how to clear possible “booby traps” that are located in the destroyed areas.

Severe recession has affected the Palestinian economy and was aggravated by the closure of the Palestinian territories. Refugee camps have been the most affected by the conflict, exposing the acute vulnerability of the population. It is estimated that 46% of the West Bank camp households live below the poverty line, compared to 34% in the West Bank. (OCHA) Long-term impoverishment is expected to result from the current military assault.

Currently, “economic strangulation” is occurring in Gaza because it is divided into three parts, with its internal checkpoints closed most of the time, except for a few hours each day. The movement inside of the Gaza Strip is restricted while only internationals entering and exiting into Israel. The movement of goods is limited creating serious shortages of food, cement and chicken feed. Bread is becoming rare and local chickens are dying due to lack of feed, therefore creating a deficiency of protein within the area. UNRWA has reported that 54 of the agency’s 67 employment generation projects are suspended. The local medical relief agency, International Committee of the Red Crescent, (ICRC) has run out of fuel for their ambulances. Israel is only allowing 60 trucks per day to enter and deliver supplies into Gaza for a population of 1.1 million, compared to the estimated amount of 1000 trucks per day needed for stabilizing the resources inside of Gaza. Fish is becoming a rare commodity inside of Gaza because of restrictions from Israel on the local fisherman; creating fish prices to soar to an unaffordable amount for the locals.

Grieve breaches of humanitarian law, targeting of medical personal, denial of personal medical care to the injured and chronically ill, wanton destruction of civilian infrastructure for water and electricity, a basic lack of respect for civilian life and welfare has been paramount.

Susan Brannon (a.k.a Amanda White) is an American Freelance Photojournalist and MMN’s correspondent in Jerusalem.

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