LONDON: Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has destroyed 50 percent of housing in the enclave and threatens to wipe out 16 years of human development if the assault continues into December, the UN has been warned.
The upheaval caused by two months of shelling and a ground invasion would also cause 96 percent of Gazans to face “unprecedented deprivation of all essential services.”
The claims were made in a rapid assessment report on the conflict’s impact on Palestine.
Speaking at the UN headquarters in New York, Rola Dashti, executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, said that the “negative spillover” from the conflict was already reaching Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.
She was joined by Abdallah Al-Dardari, UN Development Program assistant secretary-general, who said that 390,000 jobs in Palestine had already been lost as a result of the Israeli assault.
“Even more important is the loss of human development. After two months of fighting, Palestine, and not just Gaza, would have lost 16 years of human development, Al-Dardari said.
“Health and education, and infrastructure and economic growth — that would be wiped out. Palestine would go back to 2005.
“All the investments, all the hard work of the international community and the Palestinian people will be lost.”
The toll of the conflict on Palestine goes beyond the death of more than 10,000 people, said Dashti, who added that “the true cost transcends mere numbers.”
Both the Palestinian and Israeli people deserved to live in peace, she said, calling on the international community to broker a sustainable ceasefire.
“In just over four weeks, the number of children killed in Gaza, which is about 4,300, has surpassed the total number of children lost to armed conflict in 22 countries any year since 2020,” Dashti said.
“Moreover, the level of destruction is unimaginable and unprecedented. As of Nov. 3, it is estimated that 35,000 housing units have been totally demolished and about 212,000 units are partially damaged.”
The damage to infrastructure, together with the economic toll, will force the overwhelming majority of Gazans into multi-dimensional poverty, the speakers said.
Al-Dardari cited statistics from the report, “The Gaza War: Expected Socioeconomic Impacts on the State of Palestine,” showing that losses to Palestinian gross domestic product far outstrip those inflicted on Ukraine.
“For a region or an economy like the Palestinian economy, not just Gaza … to lose 4 percent of GDP in one month — that’s not comparable to any conflict you have seen before,” he said.
“The Syrian economy used to lose 1 percent of GDP per month. We have lost already 4 percent of GDP (in Palestine).
“If this fight continues till the end of the second month, the loss will be more than 8 percent of GDP and if it continues till the end of the year, we are going to have a 12 percent loss in GDP.
“Just to bring to you a comparison, Ukraine lost 30 percent of GDP in one and a half years of fighting. To lose 12 percent of GDP in three months — that’s massive and unprecedented.”
The Israeli bombardment of Gaza has also destroyed decades worth of infrastructure set up by organizations like the UN Development Program, which lost 45 percent of its projects in just four weeks, Al-Dardari said.
He said that health centers, solar power stations, water treatment plants, support centers and women-led businesses had all been wiped out by the shelling.
The loss of housing would result in a “long-lasting internal displacement situation” in Gaza “with all its humanitarian, economic developmental and security consequences,” he said.
During a four-week barrage, Gaza lost the same percentage of housing that Syria lost in more than four years of civil war, Al-Dardari said.
He also called for a new model of rebuilding in conflict zones, citing the statistic that just 200 of the 1,700 homes destroyed in Gaza during the 2021 crisis had been rebuilt.
Dashti warned that the “hard-won gains” of economic prosperity and social empowerment among all stakeholders in the conflict would be eroded if the fighting continued.
“History teaches us that without sustainable peace, all stakeholders in this conflict will not only suffer more losses of lives in the future, but their prospects for sustainable development will also be jeopardized,” she said.