Considering the deepening humanitarian crisis in the besieged enclave of Gaza, the U.N. agency supporting Palestinian refugees underscored the ongoing suffering in the Israeli-occupied area. "Gaza residents are deprived of the basics and simple rights," Pierre Krahenbuhl, commissioner-general of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said at a press conference in a refugee school in Gaza, as reported by Middle East Monitor.
"These children represent hundreds of thousands of Palestine refugee students in UNRWA's areas of operation who regularly struggle to access schools because of checkpoints or conflict just to be able to enjoy a basic human right: access to education."
UNRWA earlier stated that there are now some 620,000 Gazans who live in abject poverty, meaning those who cannot cover their basic food needs and who have to survive on $1.6 per day, and nearly 390,000 absolute poor. The U.N. agency has been facing a number of challenges after the U.S., UNRWA's biggest donor, said last year it was halting its aid of $360 million per year to what it called an "irredeemably flawed operation."
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 has grown worse by the day. Israel's longstanding blockade also creates serious obstacles for Gazans to attain a variety of medical supplies. The humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories has deteriorated further as hospitals struggle to cope with high casualties since protests on the Gaza-Israel border began last year. Gaza's health system of 13 public hospitals and 14 clinics, run by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), has buckled under persistent blockade-linked shortages of medicine and surgical supplies. Under an Israeli blockade for more than 10 years, Gaza lacks infrastructure and key medical equipment. Many patients seek to travel elsewhere for treatment. According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Israeli authorities prevented 661 patients referred to Israeli or West Bank hospitals.
As part of a growing humanitarian crisis in the besieged enclave, scores of Palestinians have long demonstrated against high unemployment rates in the Gaza Strip. With poverty rampant and unemployment high, many of its 2 million residents depend on services provided by UNRWA. The World Bank last year warned that the Gaza economy was in "free fall," calling on Israel and the international community to take immediate action to avoid the "immediate collapse" of the Palestinian territories. According to the bank, unemployment is now over 50% and over 70% among Gaza's youth.