The Gaza Strip: A humanitarian implosion

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The situation for 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is worse now than it has ever been since the start of the Israeli military occupation in 1967. The current situation in Gaza is man-made, completely avoidable and, with the necessary political will, can also be reversed. Gaza has suffered from a long-term pattern of economic stagnation and plummeting development indicators. The severity of the situation has increased exponentially since Israel imposed extreme restrictions on the movement of goods and people in response to the Hamas take over of Gaza and to indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israel. This report illustrates the gravity of the current situation across key sectors.
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  UK The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion  The Gaza Strip : A Humanitarian Implosion Executive Summary  4 Introduction  6 The Humanitarian Crisis  7 Risk of Non-Engagement  14 Conclusion and Recommendations  15 The coalition responsbile for this report is comprised of Amnesty International UK, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, CAFOD,Medecins du Monde UK, Oxfam, Save the Children UK and Trocaire.3 Contents C O N T E N T S   The Gaza Strip : A Humanitarian Implosion   Humanitarian Access Movement in and out of Gaza is all but impossibleand supplies of food and water, sewage treatment,and basic healthcare can no longer be taken forgranted. As a result of the blockade and collapse of the economy, there is little money to buy food andlimited food to buy. Food prices are rising and wheatflour, baby milk, and rice, among other essentialgoods, are increasingly scarce. During the period of May-June 2007 alone, these commodity prices rose34%, 30% and 20.5% respectively 1 .As the humanitarian crisis intensified, the number of trucks carrying commercial and humanitariansupplies into Gaza plummeted. In the months priorto the tightening of the blockade around 250 trucks aday entered Gaza through the Karni crossing withsupplies 2 , now crossings like Kerem Shalom are onlyable to deal with a maximum of 45 trucks a day 3 . Inmost cases, this number is barely reached.   Poverty and Dependency onFood Aid The number of people living in absolute poverty inGaza has increased sharply. Today, 80% of families inGaza currently rely on humanitarian aid compared to63% in 2006 4 . This decline exposes unprecedentedlevels of poverty and the inability of a large majority of the population to afford basic food. In 2007, thismeant that on average, households were spendingapproximately 62% of their total income on foodcompared with 37% in 2004 5 .As a result, food aid increased dramatically to meetthe needs of this increasingly impoverishedpopulation. In 2008, there are over 1.1 million people – some three-quarters of Gaza’s population – whoare dependent on food aid. In less than ten years,the number of families depending on UNRWA foodaid has increased ten-fold 6 .   Unemployment Unemployment in Gaza is close to 40% and is set torise to 50%  7 . The private sector – that generates53% of all jobs in Gaza – has been devastated,businesses have been bankrupted and 75,000 out of 110,000 workers are now without a job 8 . At present,95% of Gaza’s industrial operations are suspendedbecause they cannot access inputs for productionnor can they export what they produce 9 . In June2005, there were 3,900 factories in Gaza employing35,000 people 10 . One and a half years later, inDecember 2007, there were just 195 left employingonly 1,700. The construction industry is paralysedwith tens of thousands of labourers out of work 11 .The agriculture sector has also been badly hit andnearly 40,000 workers who depend on cash cropsnow have no income 12 . The lack of employment has 4 Executive Summary E X E C U T I V E S U M M A R Y  1 WFP Food Security and Market Monitoring Report: Report 9, June 2007 2  OCHA Special Focus. “The closure of the Gaza Strip: the economic and humanitarian consequences”, December 2007 3 Oxfam Jerusalem, February 2008. 4 OCHA Special Focus. “The closure of the Gaza Strip: the economic and humanitarian consequences”, December 2007 5  Ibid 6  UNRWA currently provides food aid for 182,400 families (approximately 860,000 individuals) in Gaza and the World Food Programme provides food for 302,000 individuals,amounting to a total of 1.1 million people. In 1999 UNRWA provided food aid to just 16,174 families in the Gaza Strip 7 Exact figure is 37.6 percent. Palestinian Bureau of Statistics 2007 quoted in OCHA Special Focus December 2007, Closure of the Gaza Strip: The Economic and Humanitarian Consequences 8 PALTRADE Presentation to PSCC, July 2007 The situation for 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is worse now than it has ever been since the startof the Israeli military occupation in 1967. The current situation in Gaza is man-made, completely avoidableand, with the necessary political will, can also be reversed.Gaza has suffered from a long-term pattern of economic stagnation and plummeting development indicators.The severity of the situation has increased exponentially since Israel imposed extreme restrictions on themovement of goods and people in response to the Hamas take over of Gaza and to indiscriminate rocketattacks against Israel. This report illustrates the gravity of the current situation across key sectors.  The Gaza Strip : A Humanitarian Implosion been compounded by Israel ending its reliance oncheap labour from Gaza. In September 2000, some24,000 Palestinians crossed out of Gaza every day towork in Israel 13 . Today that figure is zero.   Basic Services The blockade is destroying public service infra-structure in Gaza. The Israeli government preventsthe repair and maintenance of the electricity andwater service infrastructure in Gaza by prohibitingthe import of spare parts. The impact of this isamplified by Israel’s parallel punitive restrictions onfuel and electricity to Gaza. Hospitals cannotgenerate electricity to keep lifesaving equipmentworking or to generate oxygen, while 40-50 millionlitres of sewage continues to pour into the seadaily 14 .In September 2007, an UNRWA survey in the GazaStrip revealed that there was a nearly 80% failurerate in schools grades four to nine, with up to 90%failure rates in Mathematics 15 . In January 2008,UNICEF reported that schools in Gaza had beencancelling classes that were high on energyconsumption, such as IT, science labs and extracurricular activities 16 .   Basic Medical Supplies and Access to Treatment As a result of fuel and electricity restrictions,hospitals are currently experiencing power cutslasting for 8-12 hours a day. There is currently a 60-70 percent shortage reported in the diesel requiredfor hospital power generators.According to the World Health Organisation, theproportion of patients given permits to exit Gaza formedical care decreased from 89.3% in January 2007to 64.3% in December 2007, an unprecedented low.It is important to note that even those patients whoare granted permits to exit Gaza are often deniedaccess at the crossing itself. Twenty-seven suchcases were reported in the month of October alone.WHO has been monitoring the access of patients tospecialized health services not available within theGaza Strip. One main indicator monitored sinceOctober 2007 is the death of patients due to lack of access to referral services. During the periodOctober-December 2007, WHO has confirmed thedeaths of 20 patients, including 5 children.  A New Policy for Gaza The blockade has effectively dismantled theeconomy and impoverished the population of Gaza.Israel’s policy affects the civilian population of Gazaindiscriminately and constitutes a collectivepunishment against ordinary men, women andchildren. The measures taken are illegal underinternational humanitarian law.Israel has the right and duty to defend itself againstindiscriminate rocket attacks against its civilianpopulation, but the current policy fails to provideIsrael with increased security and has led toincreasing polarisation. As the head of UNRWA haspointed out, ‘Hungry, unhealthy, angry communitiesdo not make good partners for peace.’International efforts should be directed towardssecuring a swift end to the blockade of Gaza. Israel’scurrent policy of isolation and refusal to engage withall elements of the Palestinian leadership only closesdoors to negotiations while reinforcing the politicaland humanitarian crisis.There is an urgent need for Palestinian dialogue andreconciliation in order to create and sustain acredible and effective peace process with Israel. Theinternational community must provide the politicalsupport to facilitate such an undertaking. To date,failure to address the situation in Gaza has harmedboth Palestinians and Israelis and has beendetrimental to the broader peace process itself. 5 E X E C U T I V E S U M M A R Y  9 World Bank.  Investing in Palestinian Economic Reform and Development,  Paris, December 17th 2007 10 Ibid 11 OCHA Special Focus. “The closure of the Gaza Strip: the economic and humanitarian consequences”, December 2007 12 Ibid. 13 World Bank. West Bank and Gaza Up-date, September 2006 14 Oxfam Jerusalem / CMWU Gaza February 2008. 15 UNRWA September 2007 16 UNICEF press release January 2008
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