New shelters for Khan Younis homeless

Palestinian children walking in front of a demolished home on the edge of Khan Yunis (Photo: AEF, 2003)

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) today handed over 83 new shelters to families from Khan Younis refugee camp in the south of the Gaza Strip. The new development will allow UNRWA to re-house some of those whose shelters have been destroyed by Israeli forces during the last three years.

The new complex, which will house 86 families, 474 individuals, is the concrete expression of UNRWA’s pledge to provide shelter for all those refugees made homeless by the conflict that has raged since September 2000. According to UNRWA’s figures, by the end of August 2003 a total of 1,176 shelters, home to over 10,400 people, had been demolished or damaged beyond repair in the Gaza Strip since the start of the strife.

Homeless families waiting for their new shelters have already been provided with emergency assistance from UNRWA, in the form of tents, blankets, kitchen utensils and food parcels. Additionally, the construction project itself has served to alleviate some of the hardships being felt in the Gaza Strip. It provided around 50,000 man-days of temporary employment for labourers, builders and tradesmen in the Gaza Strip where unemployment is exceptionally high.

The new dwellings in Khan Younis were funded by generous donations from the Islamic Development Bank, Norway, Japan and the USA. The total cost of the project, including infrastructure work, is approximately $3.2 million.

The 83 units opened today represent the first stage of the Khan Younis project. A further 37 new shelters will be completed in mid-October. The project has suffered from delays because of the difficulties of getting construction materials delivered to the site on time. This was compounded by the repeated closures of the crossing points into Gaza that created shortages of construction materials in the local market for long periods. To counter these difficulties, the staff of UNRWA and its building contractor worked long hours when roads were open and when construction materials were available to minimize the delay as much as possible.

In total in the Gaza Strip 221 new shelters have now been opened, 154 units are under construction and 103 new dwellings will begin construction soon thanks to generous contributions from a number of donors. However, UNRWA still needs more than $22 million to meet the current requirement for a further 843 new dwelling units to house homeless families throughout the Gaza Strip.