UN: Gaza Won't Be 'Liveable' by 2020 Without 'Herculean' Efforts

Girl in Gaza drinking from water treated by desalination unit. (photo: Middle East Children's Alliance / Flickr)

UN: Gaza Won't Be 'Liveable' by 2020 Without 'Herculean' Efforts

Gaza may not be 'liveable' by 2020, and its aquifer may be unusable by as soon as 2016, according to a report from the United Nations published Monday.

Gaza in 2020: A liveable place?, a report launched by Maxwell Gaylard, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory, Jean Gough of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Robert Turner of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) forecasts a worsening situation for the population living under an Israel-enforced blockade, which rights groups have called an "open air prison."

"Gaza will have half a million more people by 2020 while its economy will grow only slowly. In consequence, the people of Gaza will have an even harder time getting enough drinking water and electricity, or sending their children to school," said Gaylard.

The report highlight Gaza's acute water crisis, noting that Gaza's aquifer may become unusable in as few as four years and may suffer irreversible damage by 2020. It implicates sewage and fertilizer pollution as well as high saline levels in water. While it mentions low levels of water in Gaza's aquifer, it does not mention Israeli use of Gaza's underground water supply. The report also highlights that the already densely populated area will only become more so. The population of 1.6 million people today is set to skyrocket to 2.1 million people in 2020.

"The substantial population growth rate will thus add some 500,000 people to a living area which is restricted and already heavily urbanized. Fundamental infrastructure in electricity, water and sanitation, municipal and social services, is struggling to keep pace with the needs of the growing population," it states.

The report urges the end to the blockade, saying, "Gaza needs to be open and accessible to the world."

"The viability of a future Palestinian state depends on a proper connection between the West Bank and Gaza, providing access to the Mediterranean for the entire occupied Palestinian territory," the report adds.

The report concludes that only "herculean efforts by Palestinians and its partners" will be able to make Gaza livable in 2020.

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