A report by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said that conditions for Palestinians living in Gaza have deteriorated to unprecedented levels.
On Thurdsay, the UNRWA said that aid granted to Gaza has failed to stop more than half of the population in the territory from sliding below the poverty line.
The report said that “the number of households in Gaza below the consumption poverty line [has] continued to grow, reaching 51.8 per cent in 2007 despite significant amounts of emergency and humanitarian assistance”.
In the occupied West Bank, conditions have improved, said the agency. In 2007, the poverty level dropped by nearly five per cent from the previous year, to 19.1 per cent.
The catalyst towards an improvement in conditions in the West Bank seems to have been the lifting of an international embargo on the Palestinian Authority (PA) there, said UNRWA.
Concerning the Gaza Strip, though Israel pulled out of it in 2005, the territory has been maintained under an economic and security blockade.
The restrictions are an attempt to restrict Hamas, said Israel, as the militant movement has control of Gaza. But human-rights groups say the blockade amounts to the collective punishment of Palestinian civilians.
‘Prevent despair and economic misery’
For 2007, “the real average unemployment rate in the occupied Palestinian territory [as a whole] remained amongst the highest in the world at 29.5 per cent”, said the UNRWA report, which is drawn from figures provided by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).
Between July and December 2007, in Gaza the unemployment rate “reached an unprecedented high of 45.3 per cent” when adjusted to take into account the number of absentee workers in the last six months of 2007, the report says.
It adds that while the unemployment figure in the West Bank was lower, at 25.5 per cent for 2007, the rate is still about double the regional average.
The least likely to find employment in the Palestinian territories in 2007 where those aged between 15 and 24, UNRWA says.
“If you deprive young people of an economic future, you deprive them of hope and when hope vanishes, what is left? How better to prevent despair and economic misery taking hold of a whole generation than to re-open Gaza’s borders?”, said Christopher Gunness, spokesman for UNRWA.
UNRWA said that though jobs were created in Gaza, in the public sector, with many added through the job-creation schemes organised by Hamas administration, a lack of investment in both the public and the private sectors means that lasting employment opportunities will be threatened in the medium to long term.
“Israeli imposed movement restrictions in the occupied Palestinian territory, whose population is estimated to have grown by about one third since 1999, have resulted in considerable regression over the past eight years and remain the main barrier to economic recovery and development” says the report.