Thousands of Gaza students need 'windows' before winter, UN says

UN official said efforts to convince Israel not to prevent essential building materials had so far been "useless".

Thousands of Gaza students need 'windows' before winter, UN says
Gaza schools damaged by Israeli bombing will be exposed to the cold and rain this winter unless Israel relaxes its blockade to permit the import of windows, doors and building materials, officials said.

Officials of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and Gaza's Education Ministry say thousands of pupils face darkness and cold this winter in poorly lit and sparsely furnished schoolrooms.

Ministry spokesman Khaled Radi said more than 170 schools that suffered some damaged in the three-week Israeli offensive from Dec. 27 to Jan. 18 had not yet been repaired.

"The extent of the damage makes these schools unfit to face winter. Thousands of our children will have to study in rooms without electricity or heating," Radi told Reuters.

"Many will sit at broken desks next to windows without glass."

Israel halts the import of cement, steel and other materials to Gaza under the siege as Israel controls air, sea and land access to the Strip.

"Useless"

UNRWA runs nearly 200 schools in the Gaza Strip, educating about half of the enclave's 450,000 students.

The agency said it had managed to obtain materials locally to repair most of the 50 schools damaged by bombs and artillery but some still need glass, cement and steel.

UNRWA Gaza adviser Adnan Abu Hasna said plans to build 100 new schools in Gaza to alleviate overcrowding in classes had been put on hold due to the Israeli blockade.

In one U.N.-run school in Jabalya refugee camp, home to more than 100,000 people, 14-year-old Ola Atteya said cracked walls and a roof of metal sheeting would make her classroom uncomfortable when the rains arrive.

Abu Hasna said efforts to convince Israel not to prevent essential building materials had so far been "useless".

"We are in need of everything: cement, steel, glass, windows, wood, all sorts of building materials. They are promising us, but nothing is coming into Gaza," he said.

Israel destroyed thousands of houses, factories and government buildings including Gaza's main cement plant.

Donor countries in February pledged more than $4 billion for the reconstruction of Gaza. But organised reconstruction remains on hold because of the Israeli blockade.

The U.N. earlier this summer predicted it would take a year to clear some 420,000 tonnes of rubble left over from the three-week blitz, but Gazans deprived of concrete are recycling it as building material.


Reuters
Last Mod: 27 Ekim 2009, 09:09
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