BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A massive shortfall in the $5.4 billion pledged for Gaza reconstruction by the international community last October is exacerbating an already dire humanitarian crisis for Palestinians displaced by Israel's summer offensive.
On Tuesday, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, the largest service provider in the Gaza Strip, announced that it was forced to stop a cash assistance program for tens of thousands of Palestinians to make repairs to damaged and destroyed homes.
The program also provided rental subsidies for Palestinians made homeless by Israel's military offensive.
"The generous pledges that were made in Cairo need to to be translated into money in the bank, and that money has not arrived," UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told Ma'an.
UNRWA has so far only received $135 million since the conference -- leaving a shortfall of $585 million -- and that money has been distributed to 8,000 Palestinians for reintegration payments and 7,000 for cash assistance.
Around 59,000 families also received funding to repair their damaged homes. Those awaiting funding will likely continue to live under tarpaulin tents in the ruins of their properties while at least 12,000 Palestinians remain in 18 UNRWA shelters.
UNRWA's director in Gaza, Robert Turner, said in a statement that it is "unclear" as to why donors have not fulfilled their pledges.
"People are desperate and the international community cannot even provide the bare minimum -- for example a repaired home in winter -- let alone a lifting of the blockade, access to markets or freedom of movement." more