Facts about Poverty in GazaThe Gaza Strip, a highly controversial tract of land, borders both Israel and Egypt. Gaza Strip’s population of 1.8 million, living in an area about the size of Detroit, endures severe hardships. Gaza has a poverty rate of 53 percent. An ongoing conflict with Israel and political instability are the chief reasons for Gaza’s extreme poverty rate. Below are seven facts about poverty in Gaza.

7 Facts about Poverty in Gaza

  1. The Gaza Strip is governed by Hamas, a militant fundamentalist organization.
    Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip since it orchestrated a coup d’état in 2007  Both the United States and the European Union label Hamas as a terrorist organization, This is due to its explicit acts of violence against Israel and its citizens. Meanwhile, the Hamas government has developed robust social and welfare programs in the Gaza Strip. Spending is between $50-70 million annually.
  2. Hamas instituted a blockade of Gaza, resulting in poverty complications.
    The next among these facts about poverty in Gaza is about its blockade. Since Hamas came to power, Israel and Egypt have enforced a land, air and sea blockade of Gaza, citing security concerns. The blockade has contributed to a struggling economy, a lack of clean drinking water, inadequate housing and severe food insecurity. According to the United Nations, “the blockade has undermined the living conditions in the coastal enclave and fragmented… its economic and social fabric.”
  3. Gaza’s GDP is declining.
    In a 2018 report, the World Bank described Gaza’s economy as in “free-fall.” The World Bank cites a combination of factors as the reason for a six percent decline in the territory’s GDP. While the decade-long blockade has done significant damage to the economy, recent cuts to international aid are placing additional strains on Gaza. Another contributing factor is that 52 percent of Gaza’s inhabitants are unemployed. Gaza has a youth unemployment rate of 66 percent.
  4. As many as 90 percent of those living in Gaza have little access to safe drinking water.
    In fact, 97 percent of Gaza’s freshwater is unsuitable for human consumption. Diarrhea, kidney disease, stunted growth and impaired IQ result from Gaza’s water crisis. Additionally, humanitarian groups warn that Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 due to shortages.
  5. Poverty in Gaza is exacerbated by precarious access to food and other basic goods.
    In 2018, the UN characterized 1.3 million people in the Gaza Strip as food insecure. This constitutes a 9 percent increase from 2014. The blockade prevents many goods from entering the territory. Further, it places strict limits on fishing activity, a major source of economic revenue. It also limits availability to the equipment needed for construction, as Israel worries the equipment could be used for violence.
  6. Gaza currently has access to electricity for only eight hours each day.
    Demand for electricity far exceeds the supply. Likewise, the UN describes it as a chronic electricity deficit. From providing healthcare to desalinating water, poor access to electricity makes life more difficult in the Gaza Strip.
  7. Many organizations and movements are working to alleviate poverty in Gaza.
    The United Nations has several arms at work, including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The UNRWA provides education, health services and financial loans to refugees in the territory. The UNDP targets its assistance to decrease Gaza’s reliance on foreign aid. Additionally, the Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement strives to put economic pressure on Israel and lift the blockade.

Importance of Addressing Poverty in Gaza

These seven facts about poverty in Gaza provides some insight into the situation. However, addressing the region’s poverty proves to be a worthwhile pursuit. Poverty reduction can lead to greater stability. Furthermore, it can increase the chances for dialogue between Israel and Palestine. Overall, international cooperation and foreign aid have the potential to vastly improve the lives of the 1.8 million individuals in Gaza.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Crisis in GazaIn early July 2019, presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren told a group of activists that “she would push to end the Israeli government’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza,” according to Mike Brest of the Washington Examiner. Senator Warren’s comments stray from her record as a vocal Israeli and AIPAC supporter, but her comments are important to the 2020 democratic presidential campaign as she is one of the, if not the first, democratic candidates to mention and wish to assist the Gaza Strip. As the 2020 presidential campaign moves forward, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza deserves more attention.

The Gaza Strip Blockade

Since 2007, Israel and its chief Arab ally, Egypt, have enforced a complete air, land and water blockade of the Gaza Strip in response to the Strip’s controversial election results. In Gaza’s first major elections, Hamas, a U.S. State Department recognized terrorist organization since 1997, won control of the Strip causing Israel to immediately impose sanctions. After Hamas forced its political rivals out, Fatah, Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade of Gaza to prevent further hostile actions from the Gazan government. In the 12 years since its implementation, “more than 1,000 Palestinians have died as a result of the ongoing blockade,” according to Al Jazeera in early 2018.

According to Al Jazeera, “Gazans continue to face a desperate situation because of the blockade with water and electricity shortages as well as a lack of medicines and doctors.” The heinous conditions in Gaza have resulted in the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), an accredited independent organization, to declare the Strip “the world’s largest open-air prison” in mid-2018. The NRC also reported that “a 2012 U.N. report predicted [the Gaza Strip] would be unlivable by 2020” for the predicted population of 2.1 million Palestinian. Despite the U.N. report, the conditions have not improved in Gaza as “1.9 million people are confined [by the blockade], 84 percent require humanitarian aid, [and] 41 percent have too little food,” according to the NRC.

The United States and the Gaza Strip

Although the controversial blockade has continued for over a decade, U.S. politicians have rarely discussed the horrific conditions in the Gaza Strip. The U.S. has largely ignored the situation in Gaza, which has allowed it to perpetuate and worsen, but Senator Warren’s recent comments could point towards a possible advancement. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza deserves more attention, and some U.S. politicians could be bringing more light to the crisis.

The 2012 U.N. report on the Gaza Strip made its results very clear by stating that the Strip would be “unlivable by 2020 if nothing was done to ease the blockade.” For the situation in Gaza to improve, Israel and Egypt must end the blockade, or at the very least loosen it. The United States is one of the only nations that holds the power to bring improvement to the region due to its special relationship with Israel and Egypt.

According to USAID, the United States gives almost $370 million in aid to Egypt and nearly $3.2 billion in aid to Israel annually. America’s close and special relationship with both countries give the situation in Gaza hope. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza deserves more attention, and if more U.S. politicians speak against the horrible environment in the Gaza Strip, the additional pressure could potentially ease the blockade and improve the region. The devil is in the details when discussing the Palestinian-Isreali conflict, but improvement is possible if the humanitarian crisis in Gaza receives the attention it deserves.

– Zachery Abunemeh
Photo: Flickr

Youth Unemployment in Gaza and the West BankUnemployment rates in Gaza and the West Bank have remained high since 2000, with few signs of significant improvement. Gaza consistently faces higher rates, and youth unemployment in both territories is a persistent concern. As it stands, women often more affected than men. Recently, efforts have been made to address youth unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank. These efforts are centered around either providing training to improve individuals’ abilities to obtain employment or improving the region’s job market.

The State of Unemployment

Overall, unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank has fluctuated since 2000, remaining high. As low as 14.3 percent in some years and as high as 31.6 percent in others, unemployment was 26.9 percent in 2016. This was barely an improvement from the year before. In the West Bank, the unemployment rate is 18.2 percent, while in Gaza it is 41.7 percent.

Unemployment rates are even higher among youth (those between the ages of 15 and 24). The overall youth unemployment rate for both territories at 41.7 percent. In the West Bank, youth unemployment is 29.8 percent. But, in Gaza, it stands at a concerning 61.4 percent.

Youth Unemployment

Additionally, youth unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank affects women more than men. The general female unemployment rate is 44.7 percent. This is twice that of the male unemployment rate, 22.2 percent.

Youth unemployment for women is 65.9 percent, but only 36.2 percent for men. This gap persists even for those aged 25 to 34. In this group, female unemployment is 55 percent and male unemployment is 23.4 percent. As a result, women are more likely to be chronically unemployed. Over time, this only makes them less and less employable.

Moreover, educational attainment has not been found to have a significant impact on reducing unemployment rates. In 2016, the number of unemployed post-secondary school graduates was 33.1 percent. By profession, teachers have the highest unemployment rate, 45.8 percent. This primarily impacts women as they make up the majority of trained educators.

In other fields, unemployment for female graduates is often double that of male graduates. This is most notable in STEM fields. However, even in traditionally “female” fields, male graduates have more success in getting employed. For example, 21.5 percent of male educators are unemployed, compared to 55.9 percent of female educators.

Many factors impact the ability of young women to join the labor force, including travel restrictions and social norms. The World Bank has noted that the probability of a man with a secondary degree in the occupied territories joining the labor market is 65 percent. However, that probability is only 8 percent for women. This indicates that though some women are getting degrees, they are not always able to use them.

Efforts to Improve Youth Unemployment

There are efforts being made with the goal of decreasing youth unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank. Within the past five years, several initiatives have been created to improve opportunities for youth.

In 2014, the Bank of Palestine formed a diaspora program which seeks to use the resources of diaspora Palestinians to help decrease youth unemployment. Approximately 7.2 million Palestinians live outside of Israel and the occupied territories, and have an aggregate wealth of $70 billion. The Bank of Palestine seeks to draw on the resources of these successful Palestinians to improve economic conditions in Gaza and the West Bank.

Additionally, through this network some diaspora Palestinians have become engaged with the issue of youth unemployment, working with the Bank of Palestine to help Palestinian youth. For example, Marcelo Diaz Qumseyeh, a Palestinian who resides in Chile, has worked directly with some Palestinian youth. He gives them advice on how to become successful entrepreneurs. He is also helping to develop a program that will invest in start-ups by Palestinian youth and provide training, mentorship and opportunities for networking to young Palestinians.

International Trade Center Training Efforts

The International Trade Center (ITC) has also been training young entrepreneurs in an effort to improve youth unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank. After a four-month training course that taught 83 youth and refugees in Gaza skills such as web development, digital marketing and graphic design, these individuals collectively secured more than $40,000 in sales. The government of Japan funded the program. In fact, the program helped the trainees gain knowledge about how to find jobs, enter new markets and connect with their clients.

More generally, improving the economy of the occupied territories is also essential to decreasing youth unemployment. According to the World Bank, the Palestinian economy needs a stronger domestic private sector in order to grow. As a result, they have been supporting private investments and job creation, with a focus on supporting youth and female entrepreneurs.

For youth unemployment to significantly decrease, efforts such as these need to continue. Additionally, there is a need for the development of more initiatives and programs. Many young people continue to struggle to find work, particularly in Gaza, where youth unemployment is particularly high. Hopefully, this problem will be substantially addressed in the near future, resulting in the lessening of youth unemployment in Gaza and the West Bank.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

The West Bank and Gaza
The West Bank and Gaza are considered Palestinian territories that have struggled with political power since the Six-Day War in 1967. This dispute has been between Israel and Palestine and the end result of the war has left the country in political turmoil. This devastated economic opportunities, local livelihood, sanitation conditions and household food consumption. In 2017, the 50th anniversary of Israeli occupation and the 10th anniversary of the Gaza blockade were marked. This has been affecting all job opportunities and proper food aid from entering the region. All of these factors have only made it more difficult to live in already precarious conditions and more risk for the already struggling population.

Work of USAID

The U.S. government works closely with the authorities in Palestine to address the economic and humanitarian needs of the country. To improve economic growth, USAID has donated roughly $400 billion to improve in-house situations for companies and impoverished families in West Bank and Gaza. Providing basic needs like clean sanitation systems and safe work environments is essential to maximize productivity within the company and keep the workers healthy. Many companies suffer from a lack of resources and expertise for their products, so the project Compete will help business owners learn more about their product, how to maximize value for those products and increase employment within the surrounding areas. The goal is to increase competitiveness and revitalize the private sector, bringing to the table full-time jobs, part-time jobs, seasonal jobs and paid internships.

Food Sovereignty of West Bank and Gaza

Food insecurity is a huge issue in the West Bank and Gaza territory as over 70 percent of people in this area suffer from lack of food and proper nourishment. Some of the causes for this are also a global phenomenon, environmental degradation, rising food prices and Palestinian food sovereignty. With food sovereignty, a state can control its own food resources, though that state has to have a self-sufficient food source with the help of government-controlled policies.

Since the occupation in 1967, Israel has confiscated thousands of acres of farming land and then separated it with the West Bank wall. With the separation of land, farmers are struggling to keep up the health with crops due to vandalism and destruction from settlers and the military. In Gaza, 25 percent of fertile land has been destroyed by the buffer zone, a zone that borders Israel. Patrol boats in the area only allow fishermen 15 percent of their territorial waters, further reducing the areas self-sufficient food sources. With the limitations on trade, environmental issues, confiscation of land and destruction of land, food sovereignty is unachievable. This has hindered economic growth and social conditions to reduce the levels of food insecurity.

Clean Water Access

Access to clean, potable water is limited by the wall between the West Bank and Gaza. Beaches, rivers and lakes are polluted and overcrowded refugee camps create health hazards for the sanitation systems. About 26 percent of diseases in West Bank and Gaza are related to filthy water. During the winter months, household septic tanks overflow and mix with rainwater, flooding homes and streets in the area. During the summer, the heat dries the streets from the flood and the smell coming off the streets is so bad that families keep their windows shut. Mothers refuse to let their children out to play because of the rancid smell and infected water.

Diseases continue to spread as garbage continues to pile up in refugee camps. The Anera organization is working on building proper waste management systems across Palestine, improving sanitation systems in the process. In 2014, Anera reconstructed sewage lines damaged by bombs. In refugee camps, they are taking an approach where the youth take the lead. Through campaigns designed to clean and recycle, they have developed a staff to train on proper waste management and a new sorting facility. They are creating a cleaner environment for 13,000 members of their community so far and will continue to reach out and help their people.

Health System in West Bank and Gaza

The health system in West Bank and Gaza has been shaped by years of occupation, political stalemate, violence and human rights violations. The barrier placed between the two territories limits access to East Jerusalem, the closest area that has specialized hospitals. The placement of these hospitals is scattered due to the many health care providers in the country. With the blockade in place, Gaza’s health care locations are experiencing unstable power supply and recurring power cuts.

The medical equipment has been deteriorating because of inadequate maintenance and spare parts cannot reach them. The barrier has also made it difficult to transport proper medicines to treat patients. All of these factors are crushing the health care system in West Bank and Gaza, making people seek treatment elsewhere though traveling in and out of Gaza is heavily restricted. Even with these limitations, health care in these areas still thrives. With the help of the World Health Organization, technical support will be provided to health technicians and fund projects created for diseases affecting the population.

Even with all of these issues, West Bank and Gaza still work out solutions to everyday and past problems. If these areas can continue to receive the funding from developed countries and nongovernmental organizations, they can grow back into the self-sufficient economy they once had.
– Kayla Cammarota
Photo: Flickr

Water Security in Gaza
The Gaza Strip is a Palestinian territory, located on the Mediterranean Sea, that borders with Egypt and Israel. However, it is separated from the West Bank, with Israel severely limiting movement of Gazans wishing to transit between the two territories. Additionally, since Hamas, a Palestinian Sunni-Islamist fundamentalist organization, got elected to power in 2007, the help from the Western nations to Gaza has been limited.

This has hampered Gaza’s infrastructure, including a resource vital for all life on Earth, water. Pollution and groundwater depletion are the major concerns, with some sources estimating that 95 percent of groundwater sources are contaminated in the area. Water security in Gaza depends mainly on improving infrastructures, such as sewage treatment and groundwater withdrawal practices.

A Brief History of Gaza

Following the partition of Israel into Jewish and Palestinian territories in 1948, Egypt occupied Gaza. The territory remained under the Egypt control until Israel seized it in the Six Day War of 1967. Israel withdrew in 2005 and only two years later, the Palestinian Authority was ousted in elections in favor of Hamas, considered to be a terrorist organization by most of the world. Israel’s response was a complete blockade of Gaza, limiting the abilities of goods and services to enter the territory.

With the blockade came severe restriction of movement for Gazans, at both the Israeli and Egyptian borders. Beginning with the second Intifada, the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation, Israel drastically reduced the number of Palestinian crossings at the Erez border, the only land crossing for the movement of the people, generally limited to humanitarian aid and medical treatment. Statistics outline the decline in crossings. Before the outbreak of the intifada in 2000, an average of 780,000 Palestinians entered Israel through Erez monthly. That number is now around 12,000. Such restrictive border controls have implications for water security in Gaza as well.

Water Security in Gaza

Water accessibility and quality in Gaza are quite poor. Compounding to the problem of poor facilities, Gaza’s location in a water-stressed, drought-prone region affects water security in Gaza. Israel handles droughts through innovate methods such as drip irrigation and desalination plants. The Israeli government can afford to finance these projects because they are a highly prosperous nation. However, these methods are a luxury in Gaza.

Gaza’s main source of drinking water for decades, an underground aquifer, is depleted, with rapid population growth outpacing supply. Consequentially, seawater from the Mediterranean is seeping in, making the aquifer largely unusable. Gaza imports desalinated water from Israel, but the tense situation on the border has resulted in an increase of just five million more cubic meters of water in 20 years, a meager amount for a population of over two million people.

International Response

The international community has a strategic interest in water security in Gaza. The present, squalid conditions in Gaza create an environment ripe for extremism and resentment towards its more affluent neighbor. Recently, Israel has approved a shipment of building materials to enter Gaza in order to construct a large desalination plant. A notable nonprofit organization called Interpal is providing Gazans with immediate solutions, such as water filtration systems. However, effective water quality reform will require infrastructure reform, as well as coordination with Israel to ensure lasting water supply in the region.

Water security in Gaza affects at least two million people living in the region but should concern the international community as well. Desperate conditions create desperate civilians, and given the history of conflict in the region, solving this problem is paramount. A water-secure Gaza improves Israel’s long term security and improves the security of the Middle East, which has positive implications for everyone.

– Joseph Banish
Photo: Flickr

Water Crisis in Gaza
Although access to safe drinking water is a basic human right, many people in Gaza are struggling to find sanitary water. There is an acute water crisis in Gaza, as only one in 10 households has access to safe water sources.  People in this region struggle to find access to a clean and safe water source, only adding to the already bad living conditions in the area. Contaminated water causes severe problems such as disease outbreaks, which can be fatal without proper hygiene tools.

The Water Crisis in Gaza

Experts have estimated that 97 percent of drinking water in Gaza is contaminated by sewage and salt. The regions main source of water is from their coastal aquifer, but the extreme overuse of the aquifer is diminishing its supply at an unprecedented rate. The system has also been contaminated by seawater, meaning that only 4 percent of the water that comes from the aquifer is safe to drink. Water in the region has even become privatized and many families must pay a vendor that owns a private well simply to obtain water. Even when this water is delivered to households, two-thirds of it is already contaminated. On average, around 33 percent of an individual’s income in Gaza goes towards purchasing water.

Effects on Hygiene

This water crisis in Gaza not only affects water consumption but hygiene as well. Gaza is only able to have electricity for four to five hours a day, which prohibits sewage pants from being able to treat all of the sewage that comes through. An extreme amount of sewage is pumped back into the ocean in Gaza daily and around 70 percent of the beaches in the region are contaminated. As a result, polluted water is the leading cause of child mortality in Gaza. As aid organizations work to improve access to clean water,  the sanitation crisis can be improved as well.

Organizations Working to Improve Water Quality

In January 2017, UNICEF built the largest desalination system in Gaza to provide 75,000 citizens with access to drinking water. Electricity remains a problem in the region, but UNICEF plans to build a large solar panel field to ensure that the plant remains running at full capacity so that it can provide up to 250,000 people with clean water. The organization also partnered with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to create a new desalination technique that can make almost 90 percent of water from the aquifer into safe drinking water. The United Nations’ WASH program has also concurred that other steps still need to be taken such as purifying the aquifer and improving rainwater harvesting.

Some experts believe that the region will be uninhabitable by 2020 due to the extreme burden of the water crisis in Gaza. Aid organizations along with the Palestinian Water Authority are aiming to avoid that by planning to build a large sewer network with several desalination plants. Donors have already pledged $500 million to the project. The only problem with the project is the lack of electricity in the region, but officials are claiming that they will soon solve this problem.

Although the water crisis in Gaza has only worsened in the last 20 years, recent aid work in the region provides hope for those who have been struggling to find clean water. As UNICEF and other agencies work to give clean water to the people of Gaza, the privatized water vendors may disappear and the idea of having to purchase largely contaminated water can become a thing of the past for the people of the region.

– Olivia Halliburton
Photo: Flickr

how the media misrepresents West Bank and GazaAn online search for “Gaza and the West Bank” will return stories of conflict, poverty and despair. For years, the media, because of continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the strip, have amplified a one-sided, highly critical rhetoric of Gaza. This rhetoric is true — it is hard to find positives in the war-stricken region.

But there is another part left out of the story — hope. Gaza may be politically complicated and messy, but its people and their will to improve life are not.

Voices of Gaza

The narratives found in Gaza and the strip’s economic progress show how the media misrepresents West Bank and Gaza. For example, let’s look at The Guardian’s interview with school children in the region.

While acknowledging the political tension in the area, they continue to remain cheerful and hopeful for a better future. One child says, “I would like to be a doctor so that I can treat kids from my country.” Another wants to address infrastructure, while a third wants to improve education. These children’s dreams are representative of hope for a better and more improved home not shown in media outlets.

Hope for Stability

This hopefulness may be indicative of future change. Currently, the age structure of the Gaza strip’s population has roughly 94 percent of the population under 54 years of age. As this younger generation ages, their dreams and aspirations will be shaped by the adverse conditions they live in. A willingness to change the status quo and improve life demonstrates hope, which may go a long way in restoring stability to the region.

Hope is not limited to just children. During Eid, the Muslim holiday, fireworks and joyful celebrations continue to take place. In the midst of the cities’ rubble stands the resilient spirit of Gaza’s residents. The people continue to go on with life, waiting out internal conflicts between Hamas and Fatah and external political conflicts with Israel.

Gaza’s Economic Improvements

Aside from U.N.-based aid, Gaza has also emphasized improving its economic conditions, showing yet another way how the media misrepresents West Bank and Gaza. Recent conflict has eroded much of decade-long progress, however, and since 2000, the strip had shown signs of promise with GDP growth rates surging towards 26 percent near 2004.

Fast growing sectors such as information and communications technology had seen increases of 20 to 30 percent. The economic outlook of Gaza seemed positive to say the least. Years later, the economy has been hit hard by conflict, but the strip remains vigilant in its effort to rebuild and modernize.

Efforts to Revive the Strip

Investors, despite adverse economic climates from war, have increased consumer projects in the past decade with goals of reviving the strip. It is easy to see how the media misrepresents West Bank and Gaza with its constant display of war-torn buildings and destroyed streets. Malls, coffee shops, and up-scale restaurants all exist in the conflict-stricken area.

As Peter Hitchens, a journalist in Gaza wrote in 2010, “Can anyone think of a siege in history, from Syracuse to Leningrad, where the shops of the besieged city have been full of Snickers bars and Chinese motorbikes, and where European Union and other foreign aid projects streams of cash (often yours) into the pockets of thousands?”

Today, the world has changed from Hitchens’ experience in 2010, but the Snickers bars and Chinese motorbikes exist. The media have ensured we are well aware of recent developments between Israel and Palestinian militant groups. But in order to move forward, belief that good can come about from a harrowing scenario is necessary.

– Mrinal Singh
Photo: Flickr

How the US Benefits From Foreign Aid to West Bank and Gaza
The hardships that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has suffered throughout its history are no surprising news to the rest of the world. However, through strong relations, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to West Bank and Gaza, as well as provides help to communities in need. This foreign aid allows this region to regain its footing and provide for the wellbeing of its people.

 

U.S. Aid

Since 2009, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided over $400 million towards promoting economic growth and basic humanitarian needs for the Palestinian people.

The conflict and strife in Syria and the Middle East has impacted more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees and caused them to relocate and search for help through other means besides their own government, who could not provide for them.

 

Humanitarian Assistance

In fact, there was a 57 percent increase of humanitarian assistance to provide enough medicine and food for the refugees. This raise can be attributed to funds supplied through another more condensed program — the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA). This program is designed specifically for providing aid for Palestine refugees and people located in the near East.

However, the USAID and the UNRWA have begun to evolve into much more than simply welfare relief for this region. The long-term goal of relations with the West Bank and Gaza is primarily to achieve a lasting solution for the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Through foreign aid provided to the West Bank and Gaza, three major U.S. policy priorities of concern to Congress are being addressed:

  1. Protect Israel from terrorist groups of the Sunni Islamist group
  2. Foster peaceful coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians
  3. Meeting humanitarian needs

This positive relationship increases opportunities between the regions, and ensures that the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to West Bank and Gaza. Allocating funds to countries in distress also encourages positive relationships with the United States that benefit both countries in the present, and safeguards the United States and its allies abroad.

The President of International Rescue Committee, David Miliband, stated:

“Global threats like Ebola and ISIS grow out of poverty, instability and bad governance. Working to counteract these with a forward-leaning foreign aid policy doesn’t just mean saving lives today, but sparing the U.S. and its allies around the world the much more difficult, expensive work of combatting them tomorrow.”

The Future of the Funds

Due to concerns raised by Congress, the funds go through an extensive vetting process and yearly audits to ensure the money goes towards causes to benefit the country and avoid Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas.

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to West Bank and Gaza in a multitude of ways; however, USAID and UNRWA continue to explore more methods of aid in order to continue their positive relationship with this region of the world.

– Adrienne Tauscheck

Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in West Bank and Gaza
The West Bank is a landlocked territory near the Mediterranean coast of Western Asia, the majority of which is under Israeli control; Gaza, on the other hand, is on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Palestinians consider the West Bank and Gaza Palestinian territories that together constitute the State of Palestine.

 

Agriculture

Agriculture is one of the most crucial sectors for Palestine as it “contributes significantly to income, exports, food security and job creation.” However, due to the ongoing violence, political instability and land loss in these regions, Palestinian farmers have been unable to meet even their basic necessities, let alone earn a higher income. Consequently, developing sustainable agriculture in West Bank and Gaza is crucial right now.

 

Water

Limited access to water and land loss prevents Palestinian farmers from making a living. High costs of livelihood inputs such as fertilizers reduce farmers’ profits, locking people in these regions in poverty. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations recognizes the challenges Palestine faces in this sector and has set out to work towards building sustainable agriculture in both the West Bank and Gaza.

For instance, in order to address water scarcity that prevents efforts to grow crops and raise livestock in these regions, the FAO is collaborating with partners “to build and repair cisterns to collect rainwater.” Additionally, the FAO is building grey wastewater treatment units that recycle water daily, thereby “providing supplementary irrigation for rangeland and home gardens.”

In order to help communities improve farming, FAO introduces innovative techniques of producing food such as “establishing vegetable gardens on the tops of buildings and fishponds that recycle nutrients and moisture to sustain crops – maximize the use of limited space and resources.” Additionally, the FAO also provides high-quality seeds and other inputs in order to ensure that people can obtain more food and gain higher income from their plots.

 

Education

The FAO also invests in people, by supporting junior farmer field and life schools (JFFLSs) that teach “agricultural, life and entrepreneurial skills” to school girls and boys. These schools cover essential topics such as food production and preservation, nutrition, and business management. The goal of these schools is to instill confidence in the young population and develop their potential in this sector.

 

FAO-Led Change

There is hope for sustainable agriculture in West Bank and Gaza since past projects led by the FAO in these regions have made significant contributions to this sector. For instance, the FAO-led project called Market-Oriented and Sustainable High-Value Crops Development in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was implemented from 2013 to 2016 and managed to:

  • Improve the capacity of high-value crops (HVC) farmers to apply “cost-efficient and product quality-based improved agricultural practices throughout the entire HVC production chain”.
  • Support 1,489 farmers to “efficiently and sustainably adopt GAPs through the cultivation of HVCs in 4,063 dunums.
  • Produce 2,490 tonnes of GLOBAL G.A.P. certified high-value crops (HVC) for local and external markets.
  • Reduce water consumption for high-value crop (HVC) production by 15 percent from 2015-2016 and energy consumption by 20 percent.

This project’s success indicates that sustainable agriculture in West Bank and Gaza can be achieved with continued investment in this sector. Hopefully, projects like these will help more Palestinian people attain food security and rise out of poverty.

– Mehruba Chowdhury

Photo: Flickr

Palestine
The Basics: What are Gaza and the West Bank?

Throughout the twentieth century, the establishment of the State of Israel in Palestine has been a huge point of contention between Arabs and Palestinians and serves to fuel much of the tension that persists in the Middle East to this day.

The result of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory in the early 20th Century has been an unprecedented 100-year-long struggle for Palestinians. Their struggle is mostly characterized by an egregious lack of functioning infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank.

Defining Features of Infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza 

The quality of infrastructure in each of these regions is extremely different from the other. In Gaza, the lack of access to clean water, electricity and proper sewage management are indicative of the region’s current humanitarian crisis. The causes of that situation are many, but the most impactful have been the three wars that have ensued in a period of just 10 years, the rise of Hamas, and the Israeli blockade. Each of these events compounds the other.

For years, the region has had to cope with 12-16 hour blackouts, due in part to the destruction of electricity plants during the wars, but mainly to a political struggle between Hamas (the group that runs the West Bank) and the Palestinian Authority (main Palestinian actor in the West Bank). This strain on the energy infrastructure effects Gaza’s access to clean water, and its ability to treat sewage as well.

The extraction of water from the coastal aquifer, Gaza’s main source of freshwater, requires huge amounts of energy to which Gaza does not have access. Israel is currently providing 10 mcm of water to Gaza every year – an increase from the 5 mcm required by the Oslo Accords of 1995.

Waste management is another of Gaza’s infrastructural problems. Currently, 3.5 million cubic feet of untreated sewage run from Gaza into the Mediterranean every year, threatening not only the health of Palestinians but that of Israelis and the Mediterranean as a whole. Lack of proper infrastructure for schools and hospitals is yet another strain on the livelihoods of Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants.

In the West Bank, the picture, though less time sensitive, is still far from acceptable. Governed partially by the Palestinian Authority and partially by Israel, troubles of infrastructure are intensified by the political battle between the two governments.

The most concerning aspect of infrastructure in the West Bank is the access Palestinians have to freshwater. In fact, there is a great discrepancy between the amount of water utilized by the Israeli territories versus that utilized by the Palestinians. In addition to a general strain on water resources, the West Bank is unable to oversee the proper processing of sewage water which leads to groundwater contamination and a lost opportunity – use of recycled sewage water for irrigation.

The difference between infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza is amplified greatly by the presence, or lack, of Israeli funding. Despite both of the regions experiencing of similar problems related to water and waste management (both impacted by access to electricity), Gaza’s exposure to these troubles is often far worse than those of the West Bank, due to years of isolation from Israel and other wealthy nations.

Is there a solution?

The question of improving Palestinian infrastructure comes down to a finding a solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Except unfortunately, this has proven to be one of the most elusive problems of international diplomacy for nearly seven decades.

Though many proposals have been made, the abuses perpetrated by each side continue to bar sustained, positive progression towards peace. Since the end of the Six-Day-War in 1967 in which Israel annexed the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights, a solution has hinged on the idea that Israel will only give up land if they are ensured an end of Palestinian attacks.

Today, the two-state solution, heralded by the United States and the majority of the international community, has reached a standstill as a result of continued conflict and mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians. Yet, some political analysts maintain that peace is still attainable. What it will take to bring about that end, however, remains uncertain.

– Katarina Schrag

Photo: Flickr