UNESCO takes part in the Cairo International Conference on Palestine “Reconstructing Gaza”

On 12 October, UNESCO will take part in the International Conference on Palestine: “Reconstructing Gaza”, to mobilise financial support for the reconstruction of Gaza. The conference will be hosted in Cairo by the Governments of Egypt and Norway, together with President Mahmoud Abbas.

On this occasion, the Government of Palestine will present the National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan, which assesses the total cost of reconstruction efforts at $4 billion -- of which $414 million is required for immediate relief, $1.2 billion for early recovery, and $2.4 billion for reconstruction.

The 50-day conflict that started on 8 July resulted in half a million internally displaced people. Schools, educational institutions and cultural heritage suffered significant damage.  The education system in Gaza, already suffering from a shortage of at least 200 schools prior to this crisis, has been badly affected. 26 schools have been completely destroyed, and 122 others have been damaged during the conflict, 75 of which are UNRWA schools also serving as shelters for IDPs.

UNESCO plays an active part in addressing both urgent humanitarian needs and longer-term recovery of Gaza. Through the National Recovery Plan, as well as the United Nations Gaza Crisis Appeal and the Support Plan for the transformation of the Gaza Strip (2014-2016), the Organization is aiming to improve the safety and the protection of the education environment in schools and higher education institutions; provide educational materials and facilities for most vulnerable university students; and address psycho-social and other special educational needs of teachers and learners. UNESCO will also provide safety training and equipment to local media outlets and support the comprehensive damage assessment, preventive restoration and reconstruction of three cultural heritage sites.

UNESCO’s preliminary assessment also indicates that a number of cultural heritage sites have suffered damage.

“This is a very challenging year for Gaza -- restoring and rehabilitating the education and culture sectors in crisis is vital for social, economic recovery and growth in Gaza”, said the UNESCO Director-General. “UNESCO stands ready to provide further support to strengthen the resilience of their society and institutions to alleviate human suffering by restoring normalcy to foster vibrant educational and cultural environments”.

An estimated $8.4 million is required for the interventions proposed by UNESCO, while a total of $121 million is required for the overall reconstruction of the education sector.  It is critical that urgent funding for education is provided as soon as possible to ensure the normal continuation of the new school year and the construction of new schools and learning spaces to absorb the out-of-school population. Rapid reconstruction of infrastructure and services is essential at the local level, as prolonged interruption of these services could further have a damaging impact on the education system and, more broadly, on local economic development.