BRIDGEVIEW, IL — Zakat Foundation of America and UNRWA USA have renewed their partnership through the end of 2018 to repair 40 houses in the Gaza Strip damaged in its massive 2014 bombardment, making them safe for their displaced refugee families to return to them.
“This is a truly wonderful program,” says Halil Demir, Zakat Foundation executive director. “It provides Palestine refugees with the tools and funding they need to repair their houses, putting them in control of the process.”
The Zakat Foundation grant comes at a time of massive defunding of services benefiting Palestine refugees. The U.S. government has cut all assistance to UNRWA as of August 31. That means the dramatic loss of more than $300 million, nearly 30 percent of UNRWA’s annual budget — which the U.S. provided in 2017 to the UN agency — established in 1949 to care for hundreds of thousands of Palestine refugees displaced by war.
UNRWA now supports more than 5 million Palestine refugees across the Gaza Strip, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, delivering health care, education and other vital social services.
The U.S.’s abrupt, colossal reductions make Zakat Foundation’s shelter grant to UNRWA USA all the more crucial. Last year, Zakat Foundation donors helped the agency restore houses for 63 refugee families in Gaza.
“We’ve repaired more than 5,000 damaged refugee shelters since 2014, but more than 2,000 houses remain uninhabitable,” says UNRWA USA Program Manager Lori Mosher. “The Gaza Strip endures a harsh, multi-layered, and steadily worsening humanitarian situation, and the defunding of the agency will only further perpetuate those conditions.”
A Mushrooming Humanitarian Emergency
Hemmed in by a security barrier, blockaded for more than a decade by land, air, and sea, and bombed out three times in the past 15 years, Palestinians in Gaza live with as little as 4 hours of electricity each day.
As much as 96 percent of their water supply — less than half the quantity UN experts say every man, woman, and child minimally needs to drink and bathe — is undrinkable due to contamination from untreated waste pumped into Gaza and the destruction of Gaza’s waste treatment facilities and generator plants.
UNRWA Crucial To Palestine Refugees in the Gaza Strip
UNRWA is Gaza’s gold standard organization when it comes to coordinating housing repairs, gliding over all the considerable political construction material hurdles while closely vetting every single material provider.
UNRWA eligibility professionals first verify proper ownership of a house. Then its engineers inspect residences to ensure habitability, itemize needed repairs, establish costs and quantities, and classify each case as minor—window, wall, roof damage, etc.—or major, general rebuilding.
With each bureaucratic step and supplier documented and in place, UNRWA directly deposits donor gifts into the accounts of approved families, who are responsible for overseeing work completion, or who have already carried out verified repairs through borrowing from family and friends.
The shelter repair program also provides employment to Palestine refugees through UNRWA and supply and contracting work.
By the end of 2017, UNRWA had helped more than 77,000 Palestine refugee families in Gaza from minor shelter repairs to total house reconstruction.
Zakat Foundation’s grant contributes to UNRWA’s strategic goal of assisting refugees to a decent quality of life, with basic shelter needs essential to meeting that standard.
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Founded in 2001, Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) helps generous and caring people reach out to those in need. ZF’s mission is to address immediate needs and ensure the self-reliance of the poorest people around the world. ZF conducts humanitarian assistance programs in more than 50 countries. For more information, please visit http://www.ZAKAT.org.