One-third of Palestinian population is 'food insecure' despite assistance, UN says

Malak Moustafa, Thursday 12 Sep 2019

File Photo: A Palestinian man, Sameh Sdodi sells corns and hot drinks in a stall on the beach in Gaza City July 2, 2019 (Photo: Reuters)

One-third of the Palestinian population is "food insecure," although many receive assistance, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) announced in a briefing on Tuesday.

According to UNCTAD's report on assistance to the Palestinian people, the poverty rate is 13.9 percent in the West Bank and 53 percent in Gaza, where more than 1 million people are now poor, including 400,000 children. In Jerusalem, 72 percent of Palestinian families "live below the poverty line."

The UNCTAD's report mentioned that, according to data collected in 2018, 29.2 percent of Palestinians lived below the "consumption-based poverty line," which was defined as $4.6 per day, including social assistance and transfers.

"In 2018 and early 2019, the Palestinian economy stagnated, per capita income further fell by 1.7 percent, unemployment increased, poverty deepened, and the environmental toll of occupation rose in the occupied Palestinian territory (Gaza and the West Bank including East Jerusalem)," the report stated.

The UN agency also warned that the "short-term economic prospects for Palestine are even grimmer and there are signs that the negative trends in the key drives of economic growth will be reversed soon."

Motasem Alaqra, chief of economic affairs at UNCTAD, told reporters in Cairo that it will be impossible to live in the Palestinian territories by 2020 due to the ongoing socio-economic crisis.

According to the report, the reasons behind the "near collapse of the Palestinian economy" are the expansion and tightening grip of the occupation, the suffocation of Gaza's local economy, a 6 percent drop in donor support between 2017 and 2018, the deterioration of the security situation and the lack of confidence as a result of bleak political horizons.

The report said that, between 1994 and 2018, the share of manufacturing in the economy shrunk from 20 percent to 11 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), while the share of agriculture and fishing dropped from over 12 percent to less than a paltry 3 percent.

"[The Israeli] occupation isolates the Palestinian people from international markets and thus compels them into overwhelming trade and economic dependence on Israel, which accounts for 80 percent of Palestinian exports and supplies 58 percent of its imports," UNCTAD pointed out.  

"Meanwhile, in Gaza, the destruction and demolition of the sanitation infrastructure has resulted in environmental breakdown."

The new document warned that over a 100 million liters of untreated sewage is dumped into the Mediterranean Sea every day, resulting in extensive contamination of beaches to levels four times higher than the international environmental standards.

Protests in Gaza against Israel have taking place for 18 months, sometimes extending to the West Bank, calling for an end to the Israeli blockade on the coastal enclave as well as for allowing Palestinians to return to the land from which their families were forced to leave in 1948.

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