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Poverty from the Israel-Palestine Conflict
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an ongoing geopolitical and humanitarian issue, which has extensively damaged both nations. The large-scale conflict erupted as recently as May 2021. Poverty from the Israel-Palestine conflict has particularly affected Palestinians’ quality of life, as many of them live as refugees both in Palestine and neighboring countries.

Conditions in Palestinian Refugee Camps

Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, the number of Palestinian refugees has grown to around 5.6 million. Around 1.5 million live in camps run by the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), a U.N. agency founded in 1949 to handle Palestinian refugees. Refugees are in the neighboring countries of Jordan, Lebanon and Syria as well as the Palestinian enclaves of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Most of them are located in Jordan and the Gaza Strip.

Lack of Health Care

In the West Bank and Gaza Strip specifically, Palestinian refugees face inhumane conditions of disease, a lack of education and difficulty in accessing water and food. Malnutrition is a major concern in Gaza. In 2019, 56% of Palestinians there were food insecure. Child stunting has also increased in Gaza refugee camps from 8.2% in 1996 to 13.2% in 2017.

Accessing health care for Palestinian refugees is difficult. In many situations, medical supplies are not available, and those who cannot access health care in the camps are often unable to seek treatment outside of them because of high costs.

Lack of Education

Palestinian children also have trouble accessing education. While the UNRWA provides education aid to around 500,000 children, the conditions are often poor and drop-out rates high. Children who can go to school must sit in overcrowded classrooms with limited learning time on foundational subjects. Extracurriculars and education for those who are disabled are unsupported because of the lack of teachers and educators.

Gaza in Trouble

About 1.5 million refugees live in the Gaza Strip, almost twice as many as in the West Bank. Jonathan Graubart, a professor at San Diego State University who specializes in Israel-Palestine relations and international law, told The Borgen Project: “It’s been very devastating to the Palestinians in Gaza. Israelis took out the source of the power. There are record heat waves, so there are health issues. Wastewater treatment has deteriorated.” “Conditions are worse,” he said. “Briefly, there was a relaxation of the strict embargo on the goods in Gaza, but that has been clamped down because of the recent attacks.” This embargo means that those living in the refugee camps cannot access supplies or foreign markets.

Poverty from the Israel-Palestine conflict has only progressed during the COVID-19 pandemic.  In 2021, the poverty rate in Gaza had risen to 59%, up from 43% five years prior, due to poor living conditions and a high unemployment rate. Unemployment in the Gaza Strip was 45% in 2021, and 17% in the West Bank.

Philippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner-General of the UNRWA, stated, “People are struggling in their daily lives to make ends meet. People are struggling daily to ensure one meal for their family.”

Alleviating Poverty from the Israel-Palestine Conflict

The UNRWA has been aiding Palestinians throughout their time at these camps. They have provided a variety of services across 300 areas including medical care, social services and emergency relief across Gaza. While the United States, the UNWRA’s biggest donor, cut funding during the Trump administration, it was resumed in 2021, with around $360 million coming through Congress, the State Department and USAID.

Since 1991, the World Food Programme (WFP) has sent food assistance to non-refugee populations in Palestine to eliminate poverty. It has recently begun to supply greenhouses and farming animals, as well as education for the youth population and people with disabilities so they can get jobs.

The World Health Organization (WHO) advocates for Palestinians and their health care. In 2019, they established surgical and trauma centers and gave enough supplies to treat tens of thousands of people. In 2021, they called for access to medicinal supplies in Gaza during the Hamas-Israel conflict.

Poverty from the Israel-Palestine conflict is a major concern among the Palestinians in refugee camps and Palestine proper. Many can’t access food, health care or education, and have to live in inhumane conditions. Aid is helping vulnerable populations, but there is still a lot of work to be done to eradicate and prevent further poverty in these areas.

– Janae O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

Israel’s Water Crisis
Many parts of the Middle East struggle to acquire adequate freshwater for household, agricultural and industrial use. Many factors have compounded the problem including a growing population, rising standards of living and more frequent drought, desertification and salinization, and all of these put a strain on water resources in an already parched region. However, since 2007, Israel has implemented numerous technological and organizational measures to increase its water security, to great success. Around the end of the 2000s, decades of drought in the Fertile Crescent and record low levels in the Sea of Galilee – Israel’s largest body of freshwater – prompted the government to focus on Israel’s water crisis and build resilience for the future.

4 Methods Used to Solve Israel’s Water Crisis

  1. Water Recycling. The national water authority built water treatment systems that recycle the water from drains to use for agricultural irrigation. Israel now recycles 86% of its drain water, the most in the world, with Spain a distant second at 19%. Furthermore, low-flow toilets and shower heads were installed across the country.
  2. Monitoring Leaks. Leaks in pipes and water systems can cause serious water loss. The World Bank estimates that on average countries lose 30% of their piped water to leaks. To solve Israel’s water crisis, Israelis invented technology to monitor and discover leaks early on. As a result, Israel now only has a leakage rate of 7-8%.
  3. Desalination. This has been the most important and far-reaching measure to solve Israel’s water crisis. For the last two decades, Israel has been extracting salt from Mediterranean seawater with reverse osmosis, converting it into drinkable water for the nation. Desalination is not a technique exclusive to Israel–around 300 million people worldwide get their water through desalination. Along the Israeli coast, there are five desalination plants that now provide almost all the nation’s tap water.
  4. Adding Water to the Sea of Galilee. Although the Mediterranean now provides most household water in Israel, the Sea of Galilee remains a crucial source of water for irrigation, in addition to its ecological and climatological importance. Yet, it can experience high fluctuation of its water levels due to short and long-term drought. To remedy this, the Israeli government is building a pipe that will carry desalinated water 31 kilometers to the Sea of Galilee’s tributary when the water level drops.

The techniques used to solve Israel’s water crisis show what the future may look like for arid regions, especially coastal ones. Hopefully, with the increasing adoption and affordability of techniques such as desalination, more countries can improve their water security.

– Emilie Zhang
Photo: Unsplash

Elderly Poverty in Israel
Elderly poverty in Israel has sharply declined over the last 20 years. The percentage of households below the poverty line that have a retirement-age head of the household has dropped from 27% in 1997 to 20% in 2011. One reason for this change is due to the welfare legislation laws passed in favor of elderly citizens. Coupled with, “social strategies,” such as living with younger, employed family members, the state of Israel can ensure its elderly population maintains a comfortable standard of living. The gross monthly income of households with retirement-age family members has increased from $3,948 in 1997 to $5,476 in 2011.

An Allowance

According to Ayal Kimhi, researcher and professor at the Hebrew University, “there is a general consensus that the elderly population is entitled to assistance.”

Elderly citizens who live with younger, employed family members are more likely to avoid poverty, because, when joined as one household, they will receive a higher income rate as opposed to an elderly citizen living on their own. Elderly individuals that live with younger family members have three sources of income: government support in the form of an old-age-benefit allowance, employment pensions and income from employed family members.

The percentage of elderly Israelis living in households that receive income from employment pensions increased from 48% in 1999 to 51% in 2011. Due to a rise in income among the elderly population, largely thanks to the old-age benefits allowance, elderly poverty in Israel is decreasing.

“In practice, poverty rates among those entitled to pensions are extremely low,” according to researchers Haya Stier and Haim Bleikh. Israel legislates that the elderly population receives “a minimum level of income.” Therefore, in addition to pensions received from employment, Israeli people of retirement age receive an old-age pension. Income from pension plans serves as a safety net for retired individuals to ensure that they can still live in comfort outside of employment.

The History Behind Legislation

As of 1980, “awareness of needs of the large and rapidly growing group of elderly population intensified.” As a result, Israel instilled new welfare laws and services. The new order specified that, legally, Israel had to provide a minimum income for the elderly population. Thanks to the National Insurance Institute (NII), the elderly population in Israel has been guaranteed a level of income that will allow them to still engage in day-to-day activities. However, there are a number of eligibility requirements.

In addition to a required income for the elderly population, Israel passed the National Health Care Law in 1995, guaranteeing all citizens health care coverage no matter their socio-economic status. This law covers ambulance and hospital services for all Israeli citizens as well as medication. About 30% of the national health care services budget goes toward addressing the health needs of elderly Israeli citizens.

Israel, through the introduction of these welfare acts, aimed to ensure that elderly citizens could “continue living in their own homes and communities as long as possible.” Israel also established public and private housing for independent elderly citizens. The elderly citizens who reside in these shelters are not in need of many services.

Finally, in 1998, Israel passed the Nursing Law, which sought to provide for elderly citizens struggling to engage in “activities of daily living (ADL).” The Nursing Law allows these citizens to “receive up to 16 hours a week of help” directly in their homes. Trained caregivers help with “personal needs as well as cooking, house cleaning and shopping.”

Looking Ahead

Elderly poverty in Israel has been on the decline since the passing of welfare laws in the 1980s. Thanks to the Israeli government and new social standards, the elderly population in Israel is guaranteed to live comfortably whether with their younger and still employed family members or independently. Israel is addressing elderly poverty within the nation and the gap of impoverishment between the elderly and the young has been closing over the past 20 years.

– Henry Hyman
Photo: Flickr

Combating Poverty in Israel
While some might question whether there is poverty in Israel, according to a report released in 2021 by Israel’s National Insurance Institute, about 21% of Israelis are poor. The report considered a poor person as one who earned less than $900 a month, which is less than the median income in the country. In fact, as of 2021, only six countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have a higher poverty level. Luckily, a number of organizations within the country are combating poverty in Israel.

Ongoing and Escalating Israeli Poverty

Unfortunately, these issues are nothing new. John Gal, the chair of the Welfare Policy Program at the Taub Center and professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem states, “Our policies don’t really deal very adequately with poverty. We spend less on social welfare than most other welfare states and the benefits and the assistance that these people are getting is not enough to push them above the poverty line.”

Most of the citizens trapped below the poverty line belong to families with at least five children. These include Ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs. As of December 2021, 932,000 Israeli households are below the poverty line. Also, 2.5 million citizens live in poverty and 1.1 million of those citizens are children.

The report also addressed how COVID-19 escalated poverty in Israel. The number of middle-class Israelis decreased by 10% between 2020 and 2021. Further, of the 932,000 households in economic distress, more than 300,000 of them joined those ranks in 2021 due to the effects of the pandemic.

Beyond Poverty

Moreover, poverty is not the only issue that Israeli children are currently dealing with. According to the Jerusalem Post, there has been a staggering 43% spike in children who are suicidal. Further, depression debilitates 39% of those children. COVID-19’s long-lasting effects on the education system account for these spikes.

Organizations Combating Poverty in Israel

Fortunately,  there are numerous organizations supporting pandemic recovery and combatting ongoing poverty. Two are Pitchon-Lev and Latet.

Pitchon-Lev is an apolitical non-governmental organization (NGO), founded in 1998, that focuses on breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty in Israel. In 2004, it launched its educational project. That project promotes leadership and personal empowerment through two programs. Project seven mentors students through three years of high school, three years of military service and one year of civilian life. On the other hand, the TAVOR program is short-term and intense. In the most recent school year, 400 new students joined the program and a total of 27 programs are in operation throughout the country.

Latet is the largest Israeli NGO  combating poverty and food insecurity. The word “Latet” means “to give.” Established to reduce poverty, as well as to promote a more just society, Latet provides assistance to needy populations. Latet annually supports 60,000 families by running the top national food bank and by working with 180 neighborhood groups. Latet Youth began with the goal of educating Israeli youth on the benefits of volunteerism and social solidarity. It focuses on at-risk youth and brings together youth from diverse backgrounds: Jews, Bedouins and Druze.

Even though ongoing and escalating poverty plague this beautiful country, thankfully there are strong NGOs combating poverty in Israel.

– Austin Hughes
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

About Poverty in Israel
A steadfast ally of the United States and one of the most influential countries in the Middle East, Israel has played a key role in global politics and technology. For millennia, Jewish people experienced persecution as a minority across Europe, with others often using them as convenient scapegoats in times of crisis. This culminated in the Holocaust, a genocidal campaign that Nazi Germany waged to exterminate the Jewish population. Millions died and the collective suffering forced upon the Jewish people led to calls for a Jewish state in the Middle East. Several facts about poverty in Israel illustrate the progress the nation has made over the years, despite its history of conflict and strife.

Dividing the Palestinian Territory

The British answered these calls when it divided the Palestinian territory in two: one half for the Jewish population and the other for Palestinians. Israel began as a majority Jewish and democratic state. Once again, however, the Jewish population faced a lack of acceptance by their neighbors. Arab countries attacked Israel on numerous occasions, seeking to expel them from the region. All the while, a growing conflict simmered between the Israelis and Palestinians that would come to be a defining issue in international relations for decades to come.

More recently, Israel has successfully emerged as a highly developed country, equipped with world-beating technology industry. Acceptance has risen among its Arab neighbors through the signing of the Abraham Accords, which featured the normalization of relations between Israel and several Gulf states.

Still, the conflict with the Palestinians is ongoing with no clear end in sight, and Israel has one of the highest rates of poverty for an OECD country. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has now added further uncertainty to an already tenuous situation. Uncertain times lie ahead.

5 Facts About Poverty in Israel

  1. Poverty is rising. OECD studies indicate that Israel has the highest poverty rate of all developed countries. In 2013, roughly 21% of the population lived below the poverty line. This was slightly higher than Mexico, which had a poverty rate of 20%. Preliminary estimates also show the situation getting worse, not better. In 1995, the same figure was only 14%. For the same period in the United States, poverty remained stagnant, again suggesting less encouraging trends for Israel than in other developed countries. Still, the overall rate of extreme poverty — $1.90 a day or less — remains low, just 0.2% in 2016. This is an increase from 0% in 1979, albeit small.
  2. Life expectancy is high in Israel. Despite its ongoing struggle to alleviate poverty, Israel has one of the highest standards of living on Earth. From a low of 71 years in 1969, Israel has made dramatic strides to improve life expectancies for both men and women. In 2019, the Israeli life expectancy of 83 years was much higher than the 79 years in the United States, even approaching the Japanese average of 84 years, the highest rate in the world.
  3. Israel is one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Measured in GDP (PPP) per capita, Israel in 2020 was almost four times better off than the typical emerging economy and more than two times as prosperous as China, the mainstay of the developing world.
  4. Israeli economic growth is unusually fast for a developed country. In the last two decades of the 20th century, Israeli economic growth was record-beating, peaking at 10% in 1995 — a rate only exceeded by large developing nations like China. In the 2000s, Israeli growth has slowed but still remains faster than many of its counterparts. Then, in 2019, shortly before COVID-19 sent the global economy spiraling into recession, the Israeli economy expanded by 3.4%, faster than the United States, Japan and Germany.
  5. The disposable income gap — the amount of money citizens retain after taxes — is widening. Along with growing poverty, the last cloud in the sky is income inequality. Since 1986, the Israeli Gini coefficient for disposable income has increased, leading to a higher rate of inequality than the United States, Germany, Britain and France.

Looking Ahead

The country’s weaknesses are twofold: growing poverty and income inequality. Both challenges exacerbate one another and show no signs of abating. However, unlike many nations, Israel has a strong foundation to build from. Israel possesses some of the highest standards of living and enjoys steady economic growth. Additionally, the country is receiving help from other avenues too. NGOs have cropped up across the country with dedicated missions of poverty reduction. One of the largest is Pitchon Lev, founded in 1998 and active in 50 individual municipalities within Israel. For more than two decades, the organization has worked directly with the poor, providing food and key necessities to 250,000 people a year. Going forward, the rise of these organizations can help turn the tide and usher in a brighter period for Israel.

– Zachary Lee
Photo: Flickr

Poverty after the Israeli-Palestinian ConflictWhile the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been brewing since 1948 after Israel became a sovereign state, the two regions’ dispute reached a boiling point in May 2021. While each side exchanged fire, the citizens of both nations were in the middle of the crossfire. However, conditions will hopefully improve as the two nations continue to make amends.

What is Happening Now?

In May 2021, after a multitude of Palestinian demonstrations, Israel launched both lethal and nonlethal attacks on the Palestinian group Hamas in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Israel raided a mosque in Gaza which caused Hamas to retaliate. The Global Conflict tracker says that Israel launched more than 100 rockets during the attack leaving dozens of Palestinians dead.

Although both sides declared outright victory in the recent battles, both Hamas and Israel agreed to a ceasefire on May 21. The United States has offered to orchestrate an agreement between Israel and Palestine during both the Trump and Biden presidencies. While Palestine denied the Trump agreement, Biden is still working to alleviate tensions.

The Impact on Citizens

The conflict has impacted both Israeli and Palestinian citizens. Refugees in Jerusalem face removal amidst the debate. According to Amnesty International, Palestinian citizens in Israel experience discrimination as they cannot obtain marriage licenses or education, and experiencing home evictions and torture. Gender-based violence and racism are also running rampant.

The BBC has stated that the nations have lost electricity and have lost their homes due to the rocket attacks, however, the power is slowly turning back on. Gaza City faces severe overpopulation; 9,000 people inhabit the area per square kilometer. People have experienced limitations in regard to health, water and food convoy services. For example, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has left a million citizens in Gaza City who is “moderately-to-severely food insecure.” Over 40% of those citizens are also unemployed in the strip.

How is the World Helping?

The United States Senate recently passed the Israel Normalization Act of 2021. The bill, according to Congress, “[promotes] the normalization of relations between Israel, Arab states, and other relevant countries and regions” and by improving relationships between Israel and other Arabic countries including Palestine. Another facet is that “the State Department must report on options for U.S. international efforts to promote the strengthening of ties between Israel, Arab states, and other relevant countries and regions.” The State Department also announced that it would donate $360 million worth of assistance to Palestine; many of the funds are supporting the U.N. and other humanitarian organizations. The Palestinian government will receive another $75 million for “economic assistance.”

The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also stated that global aid efforts are present in Gaza, including many of the same teams that helped with recent Haitian earthquakes. The focus of these teams is to promote medical transfers and international aid. The International Red Cross has also delivered more than 1,000 household items to Gaza residents and deployed a surgical team to the area. In late May 2021, the BBC reported that aid had arrived in Gaza via a convoy only hours after the implementation of the ceasefire. Recent reports state that conditions are steadily improving as more help comes from international partners.

– Laken Kincaid
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health In Israel
Emm Roy once stated that when a person has a mental illness, “People assume you aren’t sick unless they see the sickness on your skin like scars forming a map of all the ways you’re hurting.” In Israel, people associate much negative stigma with mental illness for this very reason. The most significant barriers in the fight to aid mental health in Israel include shame and stigma in communities.

Anxiety and Depression During the Pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak in February 2020, statistics showed a significant increase in anxiety and depression rates in Israel. A study published in June 2020 found that “only a small percentage of the sample received mental health care from a professional, with native-born Israelis less likely than recent immigrants to receive such care.” To learn more about people’s hesitance to receive help, the Mental Health Services at the Ministry of Health conducted a study to examine these attitudes.

This study on mental health in Israel discovered that while the public may be open to receiving psychiatric treatment, the stigma that many associate with such therapies discourages them from getting the help they need. Approximately one-third of respondents do not know if they have access to a mental health clinic in their area. Additionally, the study showed that people do not want to enter a psychiatric hospital when they have mental illness issues; they would rather go to a psychiatric ward in a general hospital. Meanwhile, the study showed that individuals who do not experience mental health difficulties often express feelings of fear.

Mental Health in Israel’s Workforce

The stigma surrounding mental health exists in Israel’s workforce as well. About 52% of the people questioned stated that “they would not hire a person with a psychiatric illness.” Additionally, roughly 35% of these respondents would be unwilling to work with someone with mental health issues and 31% felt unprepared to have a coworker with similar difficulties.

Eliminating Mental Health Stigma

The stigma that many attach to mental illness in Israel stems from a lack of understanding and education. Because mental illness may not manifest physically, when people see an individual acting strangely or unusually, they tend to fear what they cannot see.

To help establish a culture of acceptance in Israel, in February 2021, the Jerusalem College of Technology partnered with McLean Hospital “to localize and adapt McLean’s award-winning campaign, Deconstructing Stigma: Changing Attitudes About Mental Health.” With this project, students at JCT will attend seminars that share research on the stigma surrounding mental health and allow students to speak to individuals who are suffering from mental illness.

After undergoing this education, the students will then share the knowledge they have received with different communities throughout Israel and break the stereotypes surrounding mental health in Israel. McLean Hospital’s program teaches people to have empathy for others and encourages open discussion on a traditionally taboo subject. Most importantly, its efforts are showing individuals who are currently suffering from mental illness that they no longer have to suffer in silence.

– Sara Jordan Ruttert
Photo: Flickr

How Affordable Irrigation Technology Helps FarmersSupPlant, an Israeli firm that installs sophisticated irrigation systems for villages facing water scarcity and low yields, wants to improve its system and spread its work to even more people in need. As such, the organization is pioneering affordable irrigation technology by cutting down on the amount of infrastructure its systems need to function.

The Old Ways

Reliable data is crucial to getting the most out of an irrigation system. While practical experience can help some of the world’s most impoverished farmers improve their yields, there is considerable room to improve from the uncertainty of relying on intuition. SupPlant was built on recognizing the potential of making these improvements with the accuracy that only sophisticated data retrieval equipment can provide.

Efforts to improve agricultural income with innovative new techniques have been successful under the startup model of installing small sensors to relay data like climate conditions or plant health. SupPlant’s customers are mainly from farms in South Africa and Venezuela, with additional demand from Australia and Mexico.

Farmers Review Africa reports a successful curve on implementing this system, with a 1,200% increase in demand for SupPlant’s solutions in 2020. However, when it comes to accessing the 450 million farmers that subsist on two hectares or less of productive soil, SupPlant encountered a problem.

Financial Barriers

Until recently, SupPlant has struggled with the cost of serving rural communities. Installing hardware is very expensive for farmers, so wealth is necessary to benefit from this system. Low-income farmers with small parcels of land have “no ability to afford knowledge and technology that is super expensive and very high-end,” says SupPlant CEO Ori Ben Ner in an interview with The Media Line.

If the data from these physical sensors is a fundamental aspect of SupPlant’s agricultural assistance, then providing affordable irrigation technology must preserve this data while eliminating the very hardware that provides it. After $19 million in fundraising from an array of venture capitalists, SupPlant is providing exactly that.

How Does it Work?

Rolling out affordable irrigation technology is a balancing act that requires finding ways to increase efficiency without compromising the benefits of full implementation. The new system adapts its older iteration as the foundation for its improvements. The steps to accomplishing this are as follows:

  1. Cloud computing forms the backbone of this endeavor. Thousands of small farms can grow the same crops under similar conditions. Thus, the data gathered from sensors in a single farm can benefit other farmers after it is uploaded to an easily accessible database.
  2. Collecting this data is only part of the process. Vast amounts of data have limited utility if farmers lack the training to interpret it well enough to make informed decisions. SupPlant employs algorithms based on artificial intelligence to read a constantly updating sensor feed to provide legible recommendations on how to manage irrigation for specific crops and environments.
  3. Once the data is ready, it is up to farmers to do what the algorithm suggests. Many of these directives may be as simple as adjusting water levels based on how much one of the 32 crops in the database requires to stay healthy and resilient. Climatic data may also factor in, reducing water use if there is a high probability of rain.

The net result is not entirely accurate because the data cannot reasonably account for minor variations between different farms. Broad utility at an affordable price nonetheless offsets these considerations in light of what affordable irrigation technology can still accomplish.

Results on the Ground

Even though prohibitive cost leaves only 2% of the world’s farmers able to install sensors on their land, these sensors accumulate enough data to meet the needs of affordable irrigation technology for the other 98%. “We increase yields starting at day one by 20-30% while saving 30-40% water use,” says Ben Ner on the impact of widespread implementation.

Earlier cases of SupPlant’s success in 2020 provide a definitive outline for the potential of making its agricultural assistance available to low-income brackets. South African farmers who could afford these services leveraged superior knowledge to squeeze an extra 41% out of their lemon harvest, while Mexican farmers transformed a 15% reduction in water usage to a 20% increase in their mango yield.

What is Next for SupPlant?

With affordable irrigation technology now a reality through sensorless data, SupPlant aims to breach the poverty line that stopped so many farmers from reaping its benefits. Short-term goals for 2021 deal with expanding services to Kenya, and the company expects 500,000 new farmers by September 2021. More ambitious goals for 2022 anticipate two million new users of sensorless irrigation, counting many African countries and India as the next beneficiaries.

– Samuel Katz
Photo: Flickr

disability and poverty in Israel
While the national rate of poverty in Israel sits at roughly 19%, the relative poverty rate of Israelis with disabilities is 24%. Disability and poverty in Israel are not dichotomous.

Cyclical Poverty and Disability

Poverty can cause disability because it frequently leads to polluted environments, unsafe working conditions and lack of access to medical care, proper nutrition, safe drinking water, hygiene supplies and education. Disability also causes poverty. According to the United Nations, discrimination causes many disabled people to experience “limited access to education and employment,” causing disabled people to disproportionately live in poverty.

According to the United Nations, “For every child killed in warfare, three are wounded and acquire a permanent disability.” These children have a 1.7 times greater risk than children without disabilities of becoming victims of violent crime. Furthermore, without proper education and employment opportunities, it is unlikely that disabled children living in poverty will escape it as they grow older.

How Israeli Innovations are Revolutionizing Accessibility

Accessibility is not only a human right, it is also the means by which disabled people achieve equal opportunity. Lack of accessibility often means inequitable treatment for people with disabilities and assistive technologies are a major component of accessibility. Today, several Israeli companies are at the forefront of assistive technology development. A few innovations that have come out of Israel in recent times are:

  • The Sesame Phone: The Sesame Phone is a smartphone that people can operate solely by “hands-free, head-controlled access.” It is ideal for people living with a variety of conditions that cause paralysis.
  • ReWalk: ReWalk is a wearable robotic skeleton that provides “powered hip and knee movement to those with spinal cord injuries (SCI).”
  • EyeMusic: EyeMusic is a Sensory Substitution Device (SSD) that emerged to provide auditory sensory substitution in order to simulate visual stimuli for the blind.
  • Lola: Lola is a multilingual, fully voice-controlled SMS application that voice commands control, catering to a wide variety of people with disabilities.
  • Playwork: Playwork is common physical therapy equipment that received rebranding as various games in order to ease the transition to rehabilitation.

While all these innovations are changing the landscape of accessibility, the innovations are not cheap. Not only do those hoping to acquire innovative accessibility options have to worry about affordability, but these technologies’ creators also have to worry about funding their production. Finding funding for a startup or development project is not an easy task.

Assistive Technological Solutions for the Disabled

Assistive Technological Solutions for the Disabled — “Ezer-Tech” is a collaborative program between the Innovation Authority and the National Insurance Institute that seeks to encourage research and development of assistive technologies. Through Israel’s Innovation Authority, the program supplies grants to Israeli companies and nonprofits who are working to develop assistive technologies. A grant from the program can cover up to 75% of a project. The Innovation Authority also works to establish partnerships between startups and small businesses and international partners. Companies like Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Amazon Web Services to name a few, have benefitted from the funding that the Innovation Authority provides.

The Future

Through grant programs like Assistive Technological Solutions for the Disabled — “Ezer-Tech,” Israeli developers, like those who created the Sesame Phone, ReWalk, EyeMusic, Lola and Playwork, can receive funding for research and development of assistive technologies. Providing assistive technologies to people with disabilities opens up many possibilities in the job market, which in turn, contributes to economic growth and lifts disabled individuals out of poverty.

Access to funding for developing assistive technologies would allow the brutal cycle of disability and poverty in Israel to cease and create ways to prioritize accessibility for citizens with disabilities. Through assistive technologies, many disabled people could achieve full integration into both society and the labor market, allowing a reduction in the correlation between disability and poverty in Israel.

Michelle Schwab
Photo: Flickr

increased poverty in PalestineThe Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has been ongoing for more than 70 years, has placed strain on the economic stability of Palestinian citizens. In the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has further contributed to the economic challenges that people have faced in Palestine, leading to a widespread and worsening state of poverty. Increased poverty in Palestine calls for increased international aid and support.

Poverty in Palestine

A large portion of Palestine’s population lives below the poverty line and cannot afford food, clothing and shelter. In 2017, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) found that one in every three Palestinians lived in poverty, equating to almost 30% of people. The Gaza Strip had the highest concentration of citizens living in poverty at a rate of 53%.

Inadequate work opportunities and low wages play a large role in poverty in Palestine. Research indicates that the job status of the head of the house greatly impacts the risk of poverty. The PCBS also found that 42.1% of households whose heads did not have a steady job lived in poverty compared to 25.8% of households with an employed head of the house.

This is especially alarming when one takes the unemployment rate into account as 43.1% of Gaza’s citizens were unemployed in the last quarter of 2020. The average monthly wage for those with a steady source of income in Gaza is a mere 682 ILS (about $207). Many people earn below the minimum wage, making it difficult for Palestinians to pull themselves out of poverty.

The Effect of COVID-19 on Poverty

The COVID-19 pandemic destroyed the little progress that Palestine made toward economic stability. While Palestinians were able to narrowly dodge the first wave of the pandemic, the next two waves destroyed economic gains. The World Bank predicted that “after growth of a mere 1% in 2019,” the Palestinian economy may contract by a minimum of 7.6% in 2020. In addition, due to decreased revenue, the financing gap could increase from $800 million in 2019 to more than $1.5 billion in 2020. Vaccines have become an issue as well.

Although the U.N. released a statement declaring that Israel is responsible for providing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, Israel excluded Palestinians from the vaccination campaign until recently. Israel prioritized only Palestinians working in Israel, overlooking the millions of Palestinians living in or near Gaza, for whom Israel has allotted only 5,000 doses.

Without vaccines, Palestinians are unable to leave their homes for work and food, plunging them further into poverty. The international COVAX scheme, backed by the WHO, should cover up to 20% of vaccine requirements for Palestinians. Palestinians have also sourced “limited quantities of vaccines from elsewhere” but have a long way to go to achieve herd immunity.

Education in Palestine

Many Palestinian children no longer have access to safe schooling. A U.N. report detailing the violence keeping children out of school mentions “threats of demolition, clashes on the way to school between students and security forces, teachers stopped at checkpoints and violent actions of Israeli forces and settlers on some occasions.”

These conditions impacted more than 19,000 children in the 2018 school year, limiting their ability to safely obtain an education. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the struggles of securing an education, especially for the impoverished population of Palestine. The Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights reports that 34.83% of Palestinian students could not join virtual classes due to a lack of resources and internet connection.

Due to a lack of education and opportunities, Israeli officers have arrested many children trying to cross the Israeli border for a better life. As of April 2021, 71.4% of children who attempted to cross the border were school dropouts trying to escape increased poverty in Palestine.

Organizations Working to Reduce Poverty

Organizations like UNICEF are addressing the education crisis through initiatives such as the Life Skills and Citizenship Education Initiative, which began in 2015. The program focuses on enhancing life skills and improving citizenship education. UNICEF also conducts “entrepreneurship skills programs for adolescents to support their future employment.” The program includes internships and career counseling.

In 2020, the World Food Programme (WFP) spent $57 million of U.S. funding to ease poverty in Palestine, assisting more than 430,000 citizens. This included 33% of women-led households and 4.3% of the disabled population. The WFP provided cash-based transfers, food packages and “agriculture assets and training” to address increased poverty in Palestine.

The Road Ahead

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has severely worsened the state of poverty in Palestine as citizens end up in the crossfire. However, the ceasefire that Palestinian and Israeli officials announced in May 2021 may be a step in the direction of safety and stability for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Greater international support will help lower poverty rates and raise the quality of life in Palestine.

Mariam Abaza
Photo: pixabay