UN begins clearing rubble caused by Gaza conflict

UNDP begins removing rubble in the Gaza Strip

10 July 2009 – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and its partners today began clearing around 420,000 tons of rubble caused by the recent Gaza conflict, and reiterated the need for Israel to ease its blockade so building materials and other vital supplies can enter the area.

In addition to causing loss of life and injuries, the three weeks of fighting that took place between 27 December and 18 January damaged or destroyed an estimated 15,000 buildings, according to UNDP.

“The removal of rubble is an important start in helping Gazans get over the recent destruction,” said Jens Toyberg-Frandzen, UNDP’s representative in the occupied Palestinian territory. “This project will help provide much needed work and improve the environment before rebuilding can start.”

The rubble removal is also vital to abate the economic and health risks it poses to the residents of Gaza, UNDP said, given that some of the damaged sites contain asbestos and other toxic materials while others may contain explosives.

The project, carried out in partnership with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs), will take one year and is estimated to cost $12 million.

Meanwhile, Mr. Toyberg-Frandzen said it is crucial for Israel to ease its blockade on Gaza so that the materials necessary for recovery and reconstruction can get in, echoing similar calls by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other top UN officials in the region.

Israel’s blockade on Gaza, which has now been in force for two years, has left the population of 1.5 million almost totally dependent on international aid and put a halt to the area’s reconstruction.

UNDP, which suspended $60 million worth of construction projects in Gaza in 2007 because it could not acquire building materials, continues to request the building materials it requires to restart the suspended projects and begin new construction.

The agency noted that if Israel continues to block the entry of materials, very limited rebuilding can take place and the sites being cleared will remain empty.

“If the borders remain closed this investment will provide short-term relief and not long-term progress,” stated Mr. Toyberg-Frandzen.

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