Six months since the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, which destroyed 19,000 homes, not one single house has been rebuilt and 100,000 people are still homeless.
$3.5b was pledged for recovery but just 26.8 per cent of that has been released.
Because of the blockade of the Gaza strip from the West Bank, at the current rate of entry for construction materials, it’s estimated it would take 18 years to import the amount needed for constructing the 89,000 homes the UN estimates are needed to adequately house the Gaza population.
No political progress has been made on reaching an agreement between Israel and Palestine, meaning further conflict is inevitable. And even when reconstruction does take place, what is built could quickly be destroyed.
In the centre of this intractable conundrum is Manxman Euan Cranshaw, who is Christian Aid’s regional emergency manager for the Middle East.
Although born in the island, the family moved to England 24 years ago when Euan was five. But the family’s island connections remain strong. Euan’s mother Barbara (nee Kelly, her parents Syd and Jean lived in Onchan) has a house here and the family visits as often as possible. Euan says the island’s beautiful scenery and coastal walks helps to clear his head.
And given his job, there is a lot to clear.
Euan was with Save the Children for five years, when his job took him to some of the most troubled regions of the world, including southern Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia, and most recently the refugee crisis in north Lebanon. Last December, he joined CA and made his first trip to Gaza in February.
‘I was not prepared for the devastation,’ he said of Gaza. ‘Whole neighbourhoods are flattened, people are living in ruins. In most places [in other trouble spots] there’s some hope and progress – in Gaza it’s quite difficult to see future progress.
‘It’s a pretty big job at the moment. I was in Gaza to conduct monitoring works through CA’s local partners [called PARC]. The real difficulty is to plan slightly longer programmes. It’s six months since the war so you would look towards rebuilding and redevelopment. In the Gaza context that’s incredibly difficult and made more difficult by displacement and conflict.
‘At the moment we are building up the livelihood and welfare work and, if there is more violence, the funds to respond to that with temporary shelters and basic items, also food and food vouchers.’
To improve the quality of life, CA’s partners are providing health care, clean water and food, and giving psychosocial support to the young people and children. They are also helping farmers rehabilitate land and rebuild animal shelters, greenhouses and agricultural roads, as well as repair the water and irrigation networks.
CA has called on world leaders to address the underlying causes of the conflict.
Euan said: ‘Political progress is something we continue to advocate for, it’s very complicated. You have people growing up there now who have never nor will they be able to leave the Gaza strip. It will take time, we will continue to work on it. It’s the balance between the first aid response and thinking of why this is happening and what needs to change to make these lives better.’
Humanitarian needs across the region remain unprecedented. In addition to the dire situation in Gaza, there are more than 1.3 million refugees in Lebanon from the Syrian conflict.
How does CA decide what needs the greatest attention?
Euan replied: ‘It’s very difficult and done on a week by week basis – which programme needs more advice or support, one day it’s Iraq, then Syria, then Gaza. It’s working out what goes on in those places, what resources can be moved. In Iraq and Syria we have programme managers for those as well.’
Job satisfaction outweighs the overwhelming nature of the task, explained Euan, adding: ‘It’s incredibly hard work but there is the satisfaction, if you help one family or person it’s better than helping no one at all, at least you are making people’s lives better in a short period of time. It’s not boring work from 9 to 5. It is exhilarating seeing different parts of the world and meeting inspiring people in Gaza. People are appreciative of any assistance.’
Euan takes a cerebral approach to another challenging aspect of his job: adjusting to life in the privileged west. ‘It’s important to take time off and reflect on things,’ he said. ‘A lot of people say there is a culture shock and it is quite difficult to work with people who have very little and then come here and there is privilege. I deal with it by reflecting and going through everything I have seen and done.’
Which makes those coastal walks so important.
‘Whenever I can go to the island I do, at least two or three times a year, I love it. I can relax do the coastal walks and it’s familiar. It reminds me of where I am from. I can really switch off and relax and enjoy the fresh Manx air.’