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UN agency halts aid to Gaza war victims over lack of funds

January 27, 2015

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — A U.N. agency said Tuesday it had to suspend an aid program for Gaza war victims because of a shortfall of funding from donor countries.

Robert Turner, head of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, said “virtually none” of the $5.4 billion pledged by the international community for post-war Gaza has reached the territory. “This is distressing and unacceptable,” he said.

UNRWA helps refugees and their descendants from earlier Mideast wars — a majority of Gaza’s 1.8 million people.

The agency said it needs $720 million to help 96,000 families from this group whose homes were damaged or demolished in the 2014 war.

The agency pays for repairs of homes and rent subsidies. It has helped 66,000 families, but said it ran out of money and faces a funding shortfall of $585 million.

“People are desperate and the international community cannot even provide the bare minimum — for example a repaired home in winter — let alone a lifting of the blockade, access to markets or freedom of movement,” Turner said, referring to an Israeli-Egyptian border blockade imposed after the takeover of Gaza by the Islamic militant Hamas in 2007.

Israel fought Hamas last summer to halt rocket fire from Gaza.

During the fighting, Israel launched thousands of airstrikes and artillery attacks, while Gaza militants fired thousands of rockets and mortar rounds. More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed, according to U.N. figures, along with 72 people on the Israeli side.

During the war, U.N. schools served as temporary shelters for tens of thousands of Gaza residents.

Some 13,000 people remain in schools, including Sufian Wadiya, 36, whose 400 square meter home was destroyed in the war.

“We suffer lack of water, food, privacy and overcrowding,” said Wadiya, speaking in a U.N. school in Gaza City.

His family lives in a single classroom. A stove on a low wood table serves as a kitchen and ragged cloth sheets cover the windows.

“We are in a prison here,” he said. “This is not the life we should be living half a year after the end of the war.”

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