Poverty in the Gaza Strip
Poverty in the Gaza Strip
On 27 March 2006, the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas)
formed the tenth Palestinian government, based on the absolute majority
achieved in the Palestinian legislative elections. The elections were
fair and transparent, as confirmed by local, regional and international
monitoring bodies, which conducted various monitoring roles during the
electoral process. Consequently, the Israeli government announced a
boycott of the newly-formed government and stopped the transfer of Palestinian
tax and custom duties. In addition, a number of donor countries,
including the United States of America, the European Union, Canada and Japan,
halted financial aid to the Palestinian people and Palestinian Authority.
The international position, and particularly that of donor
countries, coincided with a catastrophic deterioration in the humanitarian
situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). This deterioration
was caused primarily by Israels occupation policies. These policies
include economic and social strangulation, threatening Palestinian livelihoods
and obstructing the movement of medicines and food, including nutrition for
anemic children (i.e. milk and diary products), vaccines, medication for
pregnant women, elderly and chronic patients.
The situation arising from the implementation of the Israeli
unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, on 12 September 2005, gave rise
to a situation that bore serious implications for the economic, social and
cultural rights of Palestinians. These conditions increased the rates of
poverty and unemployment in the OPT, noting that these rates were already very
high. It is feared that the decision of donor countries will prove to be
an additional obstacle to fulfilling the economic and social rights of
Palestinian civilians (protected by International Humanitarian Law and
International Human Rights Law), especially their right to adequate living
standards including suitable housing, water, food and healthcare.
The conditions in the OPT has exacerbated the humanitarian
situation for Palestinian civilians. Unemployment and poverty rates have
increased dramatically. The rate of unemployment is 34% in the OPT as a
whole and 44% in the Gaza Strip. This rate rises to 55% during times of
complete closure imposed by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). Likewise,
the poverty rate in the OPT is nearly 50%, with the Gaza Strip rate at
approximately 70%. This in turn has impacted the per capita income, which
decreased by 32% over the past three years, and is actually 40% lower today than
it was three years ago. On the economic front, the gross national product
decreased to dangerous levels, threatening the agricultural, industrial,
commerce, transportation and tourism sectors.
Unemployment and poverty in the Gaza Strip were aggravated
further by destruction of infrastructure in Palestinian towns and villages by
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), as well as the destruction of production and
service sector institutions, including security establishments.
Furthermore, IOF destroyed the agricultural sector by uprooting fruit
trees, vegetable farms, livestock farms and beehives that made up approximately
40% of the Palestinian gross local product.
Living conditions of civilians in the OPT are regressing
further due to the suspension of international aid, which has totaled
approximately $US 9billion over the past few years. The situation is
complicated further by the Palestinian Authority’s inability to pay the
salaries of civil servants in both the civilian and security sectors. The
monthly budget of the Palestinian Authority is estimated at $US 165million a
month. Approximately 60% of this budget goes to salaries, which support
the livelihoods of about one million Palestinians, approximately 25% of
Palestinians living in the OPT.
If the situation persists, poverty is expected to increase
to about 74%. In addition, per capita income is expected to decline a
further 25% below the 2005 level.
This report attempts to highlight the dangers of halting
international aid to Palestinians in the OPT, especially in the Gaza Strip.
It aims at showing the implications of the donor countries’ decision for
the economic, social and cultural rights of Palestinian civilians. This
report is a call to donor countries to stop imposing collective punishment on the
Palestinian people and to enact the principles of International Humanitarian
Law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 relevant to the protection
of civilians at times of war. In addition, it is a call to these
countries to enact the principles of International Human Rights Law and
regional conventions on human rights, including the EU Association Agreement
with the government of Israel.