Two months after donors pledged $5.4 billion to help rebuild Gaza after the war between Israel and Hamas, Palestinian, UN and other officials say barely 2 per cent of the money has been transferred.
The conference in Cairo had been hailed as a success, with Qatar promising $1 billion, Saudi Arabia $500 million and the United States and the European Union a combined $780 million in various forms of assistance.
Half was expected to go to rebuilding houses and infrastructure in Gaza destroyed during seven weeks of fighting, and the rest to support the Palestinian budget.
But of the total, only $100 million or so has been received, according to UN and other officials. While the EU and the United States have accelerated some funding that was already in the pipeline, very few new pledges have come to fruition.
“We have received funding and pledges of approximately $100 million for shelter and repair,” said Robert Turner, director of operations for the UN’s Relief and Works Agency in Gaza.
“That money will be largely finished in January 2015. We have a shortfall (for shelter and homes) of $620 million and we are going to run out right in the hardest part of winter.”
Details of donor commitments are often hard to pin down as the headline figure frequently includes money set aside earlier but not yet paid out.
While that is the case with some of the funds for Gaza, particularly from the EU and the United States, the Arab states were in most cases making new commitments of support. Officials said they had been among the worst at following through.
“The Arab countries haven’t paid anything until now,” Mufeed al-Hasayna, the Palestinian housing minister, said this month. “The Europeans just a few millions, maybe something from the Swedes.”
It was not clear what happened to promises of $200 million from each of Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. In part, officials said, the problem is that it always takes time for donors to follow through on their commitments.
It is also difficult to transfer money to Gaza since Hamas, an Islamist group, remains in control. The money was supposed to go to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which planned to resume responsibility in Gaza and administer the money. That has not yet happened