Gaza under Israeli blockade moves 'from bad to worse' UN warns

Published 01.07.2019 00:10

The situation of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip under a decade-long Israeli blockade is moving from bad to worse, a U.N. official warned yesterday, underscoring a severe humanitarian crisis and economic recession in the occupied territory.

"The social and economic situation in Gaza is moving from bad to worse," Matthias Schmale, the director of the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA)'s operations in Gaza said, as reported by Anadolu Agency (AA). He blamed the 12-year Israeli blockade of Gaza for the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian territory, which is home to nearly two million people. "It has caused higher unemployment rates, economic collapse and restriction of free trade," Schmale said.

Considering extreme food insecurity, half of the Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip depend on food aid, UNRWA said in May. In a statement, the agency called for providing an additional $60 million by June to help the agency provide aid to more than 1 million Palestinian refugees in Gaza. "From fewer than 80,000 Palestine refugees receiving UNRWA social assistance in Gaza in the year 2000, there are today over 1 million people who need emergency food assistance without which they cannot get through their day," it said.

UNRWA explained that there are now some 620,000 Gazans who live in abject poverty: Those who cannot cover their basic food needs and who have to survive on $1.6 per day and nearly 390,000 absolute poor.

Earlier in May, the Trump administration called for dismantling UNRWA, weeks before unveiling the economic aspects of its long-awaited Middle East peace plan. Last year, the U.S. slashed funding for UNRWA and for development programs in the Palestinian territories. Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has been under a crippling Israeli and Egyptian blockade that has gutted its economy and deprived its roughly 2 million inhabitants of many vital commodities, including food, fuel and medicine. In the long-embargoed enclave, the humanitarian situation gets worse each day.

Last September, the World Bank warned that the Gaza economy was in "free fall," calling on Israel and the international community to take immediate action to avoid an "immediate collapse" in the Palestinian territory.

According to the Palestinian Center of Bureau of Statistics, unemployment in Gaza continues to rise, reaching 52% in 2018, an increase of almost 8% since 2017 and of more than 20% since Israel imposed the closure in 2007. Based on a report from the World Bank, unemployment is now over 50% and over 70% among Gaza's youth. The poverty rate in the Gaza Strip has reached 80% amid more than a decade-long Israeli blockade, according to the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions. Dozens of Palestinians have long demonstrated against high unemployment rates in the Gaza Strip, which has been reeling under the crippling Israeli blockade.

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