Egypt and Norway urged donors on Thursday, including Gulf states squeezed by low oil prices, to keep promises of providing $5.4 billion in aid for the Palestinians after the devastating Israeli assault Gaza last year.
The two nations, who led a donors’ conference in Cairo in October when the cash was pledged, wrote an open letter to donors and said people in Gaza were suffering with an extremely slow pace of reconstruction.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said the two felt it had become necessary to remind donors who had promised to help rebuild Gaza that they “should fulfil their obligations in this regard.”
“No one has said to us that they’re not committed to what they have pledged, but also due to oil price and other issues in the Gulf, there has been a bit of a lingering,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende told a news conference.
The two ministers, after a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Oslo, did not single out any nations for criticism nor say how much of the $5.4 billion pledged had reached the Palestinians.
Last year, among countries pledging aid, Qatar offered $1 billion, and Kuwait and United Arab Emirates promised $200 million each. The United States pledged $212 million, France 40 million euros ($45 million) and Germany 50 million euros.
“We know that there are houses now being built and reconstructed but the pace of this is not at a level where we had foreseen and where we had wished it, so this is very important,” Brende said.
The two ministers said they would follow up with personal contacts with other countries in coming weeks.
“It’s not my role here to have a ‘name and shame’ list, but we do have an overview of this and we will specifically follow up on the countries that have not been able to deliver so far,” Brende said.
For 51 days this summer, Israel pounded the Gaza Strip by air, land and sea, killing 2,310 Gazans, 70 percent of them civilians, and injuring 10,626.
The Israeli offensive ended on August 26 with an Egypt-brokered ceasefire deal.
The assault also left the densely populated enclave in ruins, displacing more than a quarter of Gaza’s population of 1.7 million and leaving 100,000 people, mostly children, homeless.
According to UNRWA, over 96,000 Palestine refugee family homes were damaged or destroyed, including 7,000 homes that were completely lost, during the aggression and the total funding required to address that need is $720 million.
Besides homes, the Israeli strikes targeted 13 public hospitals; 17 private hospitals, including al-Wafa Hospital which was completely destroyed; 23 governmental health centers, four of which were completely destroyed; and four private health centers, including the Khalil al-Wazir Clinic which was completely destroyed.
In January, UNRWA said it has been forced to suspend its cash assistance program for repairs to damaged and destroyed houses in Gaza due to lack of funds.
The suspension of the program, which also covers rental subsidies to the homeless in Gaza, will affect the lives of tens of thousands of people who are in dire need for assistance following the Israeli assault on the besieged enclave.
To date, UNRWA has received only $135 million in pledges, leaving a shortfall of $585 million. While some funds remain available to begin the reconstruction of totally destroyed homes, the agency has exhausted all funding to support repairs and rental subsidies, it said.
According to UNRWA’s Director in Gaza, Robert Turner, “none of the $5.4 billion [pledged in Cairo] has reached Gaza. This is distressing and unacceptable.”