120,000 Palestinians Spend Winter In Windowless, Doorless Homes

By: Ahmed Bayram
Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)

Jerusalem, 20 February 2023 – Over 120,000 Palestinians in Gaza are living in 21,500 homes that have no windows, safe roofs or doors, warns the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), leaving families to face winter conditions in unprotected shelters.

NRC’s analysis shows that nearly 2,000 homes are still destroyed following multiple escalations over the last decade. Many families have to stay with relatives, resulting in overcrowded conditions and a heightened risk of winter-related illnesses.

Israel, with Egyptian support, has imposed a 15-year siege on Gaza that has led to a protracted economic crisis and widespread unemployment. While building materials are available in Gaza, most residents cannot afford to make necessary repairs or improvements on their homes. NRC calls on Israel to lift the siege and calls on donors to provide aid to help Palestinians rehabilitate their homes.

“Following a summer with yet another escalation, more families will have no roof over their heads this winter,” said Caroline Ort, NRC’s Country Director for Palestine. “More children will go to bed in rooms exposed to severe weather. Some families have to use thin blankets to cover their broken windows. International donors and states with influence must work to alleviate a humanitarian crisis rooted in Israeli restrictions and inflation triggered by the conflict in Ukraine.”

Some residents have told NRC they rely on burning old clothes to stay warm as the temperature drops. The desperate measures raise health and safety hazards, including the risk of fire. Roofs are prone to collapse as they are not built to absorb heavy waterfalls.

Heavy floods in December compounded the suffering throughout Gaza. Israel opened dams close to the Gaza perimeter fence, which released large quantities of water and flooded homes, streets and farms in Khan Younis. An assessment by NRC identified 100 families there in need of urgent support.

“I never imagined my home would one day get flooded, and this was the entire place,” said Sultan, whose three-room home in central Gaza was immersed in floodwater after Israel opened the dams. “I had to cut a hole in the wall to get the water out. The house became a pool of mud. Furniture was immersed in water including the blankets and mattresses.”

Power shortages remain a major concern for over two million people in Gaza, with electricity cuts stretching for up to 12 hours a day. The official price of heating oil increased $0.21 USD per litre over the past 12 months, reaching $1.77 USD for one litre in January 2023 and rendering the vital source of energy out of reach for most people.

Some 100 families remain displaced in Gaza due to damage caused by the last two escalations in 2021 and 2022. NRC is supporting families in Gaza through home repair works. Additionally, NRC is providing vital winter cash assistance which allows families to buy what they need most – often essentials such as food and fuel.  

Ahmed Bayram, Regional Media and Communications Adviser, Middle East Regional Office: ahmed.bayram@nrc.no; +962 7 9016 0147