Life in the poor and crowded Gaza Strip is going to get harsher still unless action is taken now, according to a new United Nations report released on Monday.
“The population of the Gaza Strip will increase from 1.6 million people today to 2.1 million people in 2020, resulting in a density of more than 5,800 people per square kilometers,” a U.N. statement quoted the report as saying.
Infrastructure across a number of sectors -- electricity, water and sanitation, and municipal and social services -- is “not keeping pace with the needs of the growing population,” it said.
Even now the coastal strip, under an Israeli blockade of varying intensity since 2006, is suffering from its worst-ever fuel shortage and resultant power cuts, as well as from unemployment levels of around 45 percent.
The U.N. said that demand for drinking water was projected to increase by 60 percent over the next eight years, “while damage to the aquifer, the major water source, would become irreversible without remedial action now.”
It added that more than 440 additional schools, 800 hospital beds and more than 1,000 doctors would be needed by 2020.
Israel first imposed a blockade on Gaza in June 2006 after militants there snatched one of its soldiers, who was only freed last October in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.
It was tightened a year later after the Hamas movement seized power, ousting forces loyal to the Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
The blockade has been eased somewhat but severe restrictions on movement remain in place.
The report was jointly put together by the offices of the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in the Palestinian territories, the UN children's fund (UNICEF), the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) and UNSCO, the special coordinator for the peace process.