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

women's empowerment in Gaza and West BankAn increasing number of women in Gaza and West Bank are now the head of their households. Due to the restrictive Israeli occupation, some women lost their husbands to prison, while other men are struggling to find employment. As a result, many Palestinian women are taking it upon themselves to find formal or informal employment for stability.

Despite this reality, women’s empowerment in Gaza and West Bank is very limited. Due to discrimination in formal workforces and society’s assumption that women should not be responsible for household finances, the vast majority of women in Gaza and the West Bank are unemployed.

Of the women that are technically unemployed, almost all of them are working in some way. Most women are responsible for unpaid work within the home, and 85 percent of unpaid women in Gaza and West Bank work in agriculture. Therefore, while many women contribute to the economy through the agriculture value chain, they are still unpaid or underpaid for their work.

These are two of the ways that women in Gaza and West Bank band together, with the help of outside organizations, to generate fair incomes within the agriculture value chain.

Food Co-ops
What better way to generate income through cooking than through a food cooperative? Across Gaza and West Bank, women are coming together to run food cooperatives that sell a variety of goods from freshly made pastries to jams and pickled vegetables.

While most women cook the menu items, other women are responsible for marketing and communications, demonstrating that food co-ops create diverse opportunities for employment. Additionally, for the women who take pride in baking and selling traditional foods, food co-operatives are a celebration and preservation of Palestinian culture.

Successful food co-ops sell bulk and catering orders to schools and local businesses; however, the equipment needed to mass produce certain foods is expensive and difficult to obtain. As a result, many female-run co-ops sacrifice quality and production potential to stay afloat. This is where organizations like American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), which hosts programs dedicated to women’s empowerment in Gaza and West Bank, are most useful.

ANERA’s agricultural program works with eight female food co-ops in Gaza by filling wish lists and providing them with expensive but essential equipment such as refrigerators and ovens. So far, women from co-ops assisted by ANERA noticed an increase in income from $57 to $72 per month and greater employment among local women.

Beekeeping and the Honey Value Chain
Due to the restrictive nature of Israeli occupation, there is an incredible demand for honey in the West Bank and Gaza. In the West Bank specifically, the amount of honey that is locally produced only covers 30 percent of the local demand for the product.

Honey production is a major source of income and women’s empowerment in Gaza and West Bank. Groups of women are working together to keep beehives on the outskirts of their villages. The women of one beekeeping business report $1500 in earnings per year through honey production. However, with assistance from organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and local women’s associations, this number can be higher.

With assistance from local women’s associations, FAO trains female beekeepers in production and marketing strategies to increase profitability and promote the local sale of honey products in Gaza. Beekeepers are also taught to create processed honey products, therefore multiplying the number of products available for sale. After the product is created, FAO connects the women beekeepers to buyers in their local markets, allowing them to create new networking opportunities within their local villages.

Aside from honey being the most successful value chain in West Bank and Gaza, many women like beekeeping because it also serves as a hobby that gives them a mental break from their typical housework. Overall, female beekeepers trained by FAO’s program experienced an increase in product quality and sales, as well as network growth.

Women’s empowerment in Gaza and West Bank is being bolstered by the agriculture industry in a restricted and failing economy. Through proper funding and adequate training, these women can finally see a portion of the salary and benefits they have earned.

– Danielle Poindexter

Photo: Flickr

Instagram Provides a View of GazaIn June 2007, Israel began a strict land, sea and air blockade of Gaza. Nearly two million people live locked inside, the borders rigorously controlled. The movement of goods and humans are harshly restricted, and for as much as 72 percent of the population, food supplies are uncertain. 41 percent are unemployed. Hospitals must rely on generators to maintain life-saving equipment, and their stock of medicine dwindles dangerously. Drinking water is in danger of running out if the highly-taxed desalinization plants break down.

Through the camera lenses of two Palestinian women, Instagram provides a view of Gaza that few outsiders are allowed to see. Though forbidden to leave Gaza, Kholoud Nassar and Fatma Mosabah are Instagram celebrities by showing the world there is more to Gaza than the war. Each woman has over 100,000 Instagram followers. Through images captured by Nassar and Mosabah on their cell phones, Instagram provides a view of Gaza to those who live outside its restrictive borders. The people of Gaza, locked inside a land mass the approximate size of Philadelphia, recognize Nassar and Mosabah several times a day,

Israel guards Gaza’s borders to the east and north by Israel, Egypt to the south and the Mediterranean Sea to the west. Gazans must obtain permission to leave the area. Neither Nassar nor Mosabah has left Gaza in over 10 years. Also, Israel denies tourists permission to visit Gaza. The rest of the world can only imagine what life is like inside the heavily guarded strip. Since 2008, three wars have played out between Hamas and Israel. For most, the mention of Gaza conjures visions of devastation, poverty and suffering.

Although Gazans receive just a short period of electricity each day, social media sites are remarkably popular. Palestinian Social Media Club president Ali Bkheet calculates that approximately 50 percent of Gazans have Facebook accounts. The number utilizing Twitter and Instagram are significantly smaller.

According to Bkheet, the decade-long Israeli blockade makes Gazans particularly enthusiastic to use social media to express themselves and narrate the story of Gaza.

Rather than using text to educate outsiders about life in Gaza, Kholoud Nassar and Fatma Mosabah depict the people and the beauty of their homeland through pictures. Instagram’s focus on photos over text and political debates enables the two women to show a different side of Gaza that exists behind the Israeli-built steel mesh fence.

Heather Hopkins

Photo: Google

The Fight Against Child Labor in Gaza: Organizations Unite
As organizations unite, the fight continues against child labor in Gaza. The ongoing power struggle between the Israeli government and Hamas has led to adverse effects on the 1.8 million population of Gaza, with nearly 80 percent of the population relying on foreign aid. Children have been burdened by the combined effects of child labor and penurious standards of living. As a result, the plight of youth has deteriorated in Gaza.

The situation has especially been exacerbating since the Israeli blockade on the Gaza strip.

An analysis conducted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) highlighted that child labor in Gaza has risen. The Jerusalem Post has additionally reported that a large proportion of the children are below the legal age of 15.

With rising food prices and varying degrees of income disparity, the situation has furthermore declined. The deficiency in the labor market has made it hard for people to find work. As a result, child labor in Gaza continues to be an ongoing issue as young children are forced to work for meager amounts to support their families without insurance.

“I work to help him (my father) earn a living. My brother also works to help him. The situation is not good. We don’t have money to pay to paint our home and not even to buy a ball. We don’t have anything. My salary is not enough,” said Mahmoud Yazji in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.

Neighboring countries have taken on the humanitarian initiative and many organizations strive to help these vulnerable children. Here are just a few of the organizations:

  • Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization
    A convoy from the Organization regularly delivers medical supplies. It has collectively contributed a massive $40 million to Gaza since 2009 and has renewed hope for nearly 600,000 Gaza residents with the efficient health care services.
  • Turkish Red Crescent
    The inception of the first aid station by the Turkish Red Crescent will benefit many in Karara. Moreover, the recent steadfast Israel-Turkey deal has greatly helped bolster the transportation of aid. Five hundred trucks have so far made their way through the disputed territories with the supervision of the Turkish Red Crescent.
  • Additionally, the organization SOS Children’s Villages has been providing care and early education to young children in Rafah since 1999. Their Youth Home has also helped young people with basic training to adjust to the challenges that adult life entails.
  • United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has also taken on this effort by providing a high level of education to the youth in Gaza. They have garnered expertise in this field over the last three years.
  • Gaza’s Social Affairs Ministry of Labor has conducted and organized initiatives that will aid in making the youth more self-sufficient by teaching them essential skills like carpentry and sewing.

Such efforts are aimed at encouraging the youth and increasing the propensity to remain in school. Increasing literacy rates are also vital to make the youth competitive for the labor market. This is vital because the youth unemployment rate now stands at 60 percent.

Moreover, The El-Wedad Society for Community Rehabilitation is spearheading the push for children’s rights by visiting families and emphasizing the vitality of education through seminars and sessions.

Strengthening the insurance policy and increasing the bargaining power of the youth is also essential to help combat the issue. Businesses who use means of exploitation and child labor should be blacklisted by the U.N. to accentuate the magnitude of the violation.

A possible cessation of hostilities between the Hamas and the Israeli government does not seem likely, especially after the revolts that rocked 2014. However, the widespread impact of such progressive endeavors will take some time to reach the heart of every youth in Gaza.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr