Gaza needs minimum 16 years to rebuild lost homes, UN says

By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) - Rebuilding Gaza's shattered homes will take at least until 2040 but could drag on for many decades, according to a U.N. report released on Thursday.

Nearly seven months of Israeli bombardment have caused billions of dollars in damage, leaving many of the crowded strip's high-rise concrete buildings reduced to heaps, with a U.N. official referring to a "moonscape" of destruction.

Palestinian data shows that about 80,000 homes have been destroyed in a conflict triggered by Hamas fighters' deadly attacks on southern Israel on Oct. 7. Israeli strikes have killed tens of thousands of Palestinians.

In a best-case scenario in which construction materials are delivered five times as fast as in the last Gaza crisis in 2021, rebuilding destroyed homes could be done by 2040, a building assessment said.

But the U.N. Development Programme assessment notes that Gaza would need "approximately 80 years to restore all the fully destroyed housing units" under a scenario assuming the pace of reconstruction follows the trend of several previous Gaza conflicts.

A separate report based on satellite images analysed by the United Nations showed that 85.8% of schools in Gaza had suffered some level of damage since Oct. 7. Over 70% of schools will require major or full reconstruction, the U.N. statement added.

The UNDP assessment makes a series of projections on the war's socioeconomic impact based on the duration of the current conflict, projecting decades of suffering.

"Unprecedented levels of human losses, capital destruction, and the steep rise in poverty in such a short period of time will precipitate a serious development crisis that jeopardises the future of generations to come," said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner in a statement.

In a scenario where the war lasts nine months, poverty is set to increase from 38.8% of Gaza's population at the end of 2023 to 60.7%, dragging a large portion of the middle class below the poverty line, the report said.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Nick Macfie, William Maclean)