Report: Gaza Will Be Uninhabitable In Five Years

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.
The northern Gaza Strip, in 2012 (Amir Cohen / Reuters)

A new report by the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development predicts that Gaza, which has seen three wars in the last six years, will be “uninhabitable” by 2020.

Here’s what will happen, according to the report:

If the current blockade and insufficient levels of donor support persist, even with a reversion to the status quo that prevailed before the latest military operation, Gaza will become economically unviable and the already grim socioeconomic conditions can only deteriorate. The likely outcome will be more conflict, mass poverty, high unemployment, shortages of electricity and drinking water, inadequate health care and a collapsing infrastructure. In short, Gaza will be unlivable, as emphasized by the United Nations.

The 2014 Israeli ground invasion resulted in approximately 2,200 Palestinian deaths—the highest civilian death toll Gaza has seen since the Six-Day War in 1967—and has displaced about 500,000 civilians. The invasion, the report says, caused an economic deficit nearly triple the size of Gaza’s GDP, increased the unemployment rate to a record-breaking 44 percent, and left 72 percent of households without reliable access to food.

The report also stated the blockades imposed by Israel in 2006 have “inflicted large-scale destruction” of Gaza’s infrastructure and local economy, and have contributed to shortages of basic humanitarian necessities like water, electricity and fuel. The blockades ban all exported goods, and all imports, except for most basic humanitarian goods, have been prohibited. Egypt also maintains a blockade on Gaza and is in the midst of an operation to destroy the tunnels used to smuggle food and goods by flooding them.

The deteriorating sanitation infrastructure poses a severe water crisis, the U.N. report explains. Gaza’s population depends solely on a coastal aquifer for fresh drinking water, and about 95 percent of the area’s water from aquifers is not safe for consumption. The U.N. estimated that by 2016, the ruinous effects of contamination will make aquifers unusable.

The U.N. report cautioned that monetary aid from other nations will not reverse the dire conditions of the Gaza Strip on its own, and calls for“‘herculean efforts” to slow the region’s deterioration.