AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
New, brightly painted houses now dot a Gaza neighborhood that was severely damaged by war almost two years ago. And right next to most of the new houses are uninhabitable shells of what used to be homes. NPR's Emily Harris looks at the hoops Gazans have to jump through to get their homes rebuilt. It starts with who's paying the bill.
EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: One pretty, new house in Gaza's Shujaya neighborhood is painted buttercream yellow with warm, red trim. Golden highlights fleck the decorative black grill work on the front door.
(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)
HYTHAM HARARA: Just a minute. Yes?
HARRIS: Twenty-one-year-old Hytham Harara is the oldest son at home.
HARARA: My home was destructed in the last war. We moved back maybe before just two months ago.
HARRIS: That was already a year and a half after the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, the militant Islamist group which runs Gaza. And Harara feels lucky. Many of his neighbors are not back yet. Harara points around at ruins and reconstruction.
HARARA: These buildings, this and this, that, were destructed. Some of them were rebuilt and the other is still waiting to rebuild their home.
HARRIS: Across the dirt road, a dozen new concrete pillars stand tall on a fresh foundation. This belongs to a family member but Harara says construction is on hold.
HARARA: Their names is included in the Kuwaiti's rebuilding.
HARRIS: Kuwaiti rebuilding - that's money provided by the government of Kuwait. The Gaza government decides who gets that money or help from another Gulf state, Qatar. Qatari money has flowed more quickly in part because of politics, says Gaza political analyst Mkaimer Abu Sada.
MKAIMER ABU SADA: Qatar has a very good relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood in general and with Hamas in particular.
HARRIS: Kuwait's relationship is not as good, but that's not the only obstacle. To get to the front of either line, there's a lot of paperwork, paperwork that took almost a year for one family to get together. Hassan Faraj and 11 family members have moved back into their home, even though it's still mostly destroyed. Sewage empties into the yard. Inside...
YOSRA FARAJ: No kitchen, no kitchen.
HARRIS: Yosra Faraj is baking bread in what used to be the main entry hall. A wooden door leads to what used to be the kitchen.
Oh, it opens right into the outside.
The outer walls are blown away. So much for the kitchen, says Faraj.
HASSAN FARAJ: Cancelled (laughter).
HARRIS: Faraj has kept his sense of humor, despite not receiving rebuilding cash yet. He's on the Kuwaiti waitlist after finishing the required documentation.
H. FARAJ: (Through interpreter) To start with the municipality to prove that you own the piece of land and you own the building that was hit. Then you got maps for the new building and then you have the OK from the ministry of works and housing. All this paperwork took almost a year.
HARRIS: The United Nations is charged with rebuilding the biggest number of totally destroyed homes in Gaza - more than 7,000. So far, only 84 families have received money to rebuild. Melinda Young, the deputy director of the biggest U.N. agency here, says it's going slowly because the U.N. prioritizes the most needy families. Many have to clear debts as part of the reconstruction agreement. And some, Young says, might not ever be able to provide the proof needed to rebuild.
MELINDA YOUNG: So that 20 percent of the caseload can't prove legal title to their land. They may have been built on what was originally government land that they don't have title to. They can't, therefore, rebuild there.
HARRIS: Those people might have to be relocated. So far, this story has been about just the Gaza homes totally destroyed in the 2014 war. More than 140,000 were also damaged in some way - lightly or really badly. Around half have been fixed. The U.N.'s Young says the only real thing holding up repairs on the rest is money.
YOUNG: They've had all the assessments done, the engineer and site visits, all that sort of thing. Get the money, within six months we could then clear that caseload. And that's tens of thousands of people.
HARRIS: But it's hundreds of millions of dollars they're waiting for - pledges made by various donor countries back in the fall of 2014. Emily Harris, NPR News, Gaza.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.