Top 10 Poverty in Palestine
Palestine, a country consisting of Gaza and the West Bank, faces ongoing conflict with Israel, political instability and resource insecurity. While the historical and political scenario of Palestine is complex and cannot be simply explained, in the text below top 10 facts about poverty in Palestine are presented in order to provide a clearer picture of the situation in the country.

  1. Poverty is widespread and severe in Palestine. Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics finds that 29.2 percent of Palestinian individuals lived in poverty in 2017. In addition, 16.8 percent of Palestinians live below the poverty line. Individuals that live below the poverty line are unable to acquire the necessities of food, clothing and shelter.
  2. Poverty is particularly acute in the Gaza and Palestine’s refugee camps. While the 13.9 percent poverty rate in West Bank is alarming, over half of the individuals in Gaza and 45.4 percent of individuals in refugee camps live in poverty. Additionally, 33.8 percent of Gazans and 29.3 percent of those in Palestinian refugee camps live below the deep poverty line. Over 1.5 million individuals, displaced due to the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, 1967 Six-Day War and Israeli occupation, live in Palestine refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
  3. Poverty in Palestine is on the rise. Palestine’s poverty level increased by 13.2 percent from 2011 to 2017. In the next two years, the World Bank predicts a decline in real per capita income and an increase in unemployment, given that the current scenario of Israeli restrictions and internal divide between West Bank and Gaza persists.
  4. Unemployment is alarmingly high. Unemployment in Palestine reached 27 percent in 2017, with unemployment in West Bank at 18 percent and Gaza at 44 percent. In fact, Gaza had the third highest unemployment rate in the world in 2017. The actual rate of unemployment in the West Bank and Gaza is higher than reported as these rates do not account for those who have dropped out of the labor market. Israeli settlements and import restrictions led to increased unemployment by damaging the Palestinian economy through increased production costs and decreased land and resources available for production.
  5. Foreign aid has played a large role in reducing poverty in Palestine. According to the Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics, public aid has reduced the poverty percentage by 11.5 percent, with deep poverty reduced by 20 percent. International aid, with the U.S. and U.K. as leading donors, is critical for the Palestinian economy. The West Bank’s economy is seen as fully dependent on aid and 80 percent of Gazans relying on humanitarian aid for survival.
  6. Just under a quarter of all Palestinians are food insecure. Many Palestinians lack the resources to put substantial meals on the table. Food insecurity poses a threat with 32.7 percent of Palestinians or 1.5 million people that are food insecure. In Gaza, this figure jumps to 68.5 percent.
  7. Water quality is low, particularly in Gaza. Water experts have agreed that 97 percent of the water in Gaza is polluted. Dangerous diseases such as diarrhea that now affects 80 percent of children under the age of 3 have become more widespread as a result.
  8. Some Israeli policies hinder Palestine’s economic growth. A 12-year blockade of the Gaza strip, a separation wall in the West Bank and time-consuming checkpoints are all Israeli policies that harm Palestine’s economy. Israeli land restrictions in the West Bank lower Palestine’s GDP by $3.4 billion a year, or 35 percent of Palestine’s economy, by restricting Palestinian access to agricultural and resource-rich land.
  9. Gaza is currently facing an electricity crisis. The two million Palestinian residents of Gaza receive electricity for no more than eight hours each day. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, for the past decade, Gaza has suffered from a chronic electricity deficit or a situation where demand for electricity far exceeds the supply. The shortage of electricity has decreased the availability of water, sanitation and health services, along with undermining Gaza’s fragile economy, particularly the agriculture and manufacturing sectors.
  10. Many organizations are working persistently to alleviate poverty in Palestine. One of those organizations is the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) that gives support to the most vulnerable communities through sustainable economic empowerment approaches that decrease dependency on aid. An example of a UNDP project is the Deprived Families Economic Empowerment Programme, a project that aims to graduate impoverished families from being recipients of humanitarian assistance to being economically self-sufficient by providing services specific to their needs. The financial services provided through this program generated 23,000 paid and sustainable jobs and 9,560 family-owned enterprises. The Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement also intends to improve the lives of Palestinians through applying economic and political pressure on Israel to end their occupation of Palestine.

These top 10 facts about poverty in Palestine are just snippets of the complex picture of political, historical and economic factors that influence the Palestinian standard of living. There is no magic bullet solution to poverty in any country, but a combination of international support and political collaboration has the potential to greatly improve the lives of many Palestinians.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
Photo: Pixabay

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

Refugees in Lebanon

While the Syrian civil war and other conflicts in the Middle East continue to make international headlines, the refugee crisis caused by these conflicts has slowly faded from the public eye. Many countries around the world are now focused on more immediate internal problems. For Syria’s neighboring countries, though, the refugee crisis continues to be an impactful part of their society.

Lebanon is one of these countries. This country shares most of its land border with Syria, and this made it an obvious place for war refugees to flee. The government has allowed many to remain in the country. Estimates say that there are still more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and this is only part of the country’s refugee population.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Life for Syrian refugees in Lebanon today is complicated, to say at least. While they are allowed to stay within the country, a combination of unfriendly government policies and heavily-strained infrastructure mean that few can maintain a high quality of life. Residency laws are difficult to navigate, leaving many fearful of arrest and open to exploitation.

Good work is hard to find, and 71 percent of Syrian refugees live below the country’s poverty line. This lack of financial resources helps explain why more than 200,000 refugee children were kept out of school in 2016. This education gap will only lead to more economic vulnerability in the long term.

Compounding these difficulties is the legitimate strain that 1.5 million refugees put on a Lebanese population that totals only six million. The Lebanese residents of some host communities are outnumbered by refugees. Since the start of the crisis, government spending and debt have risen while GDP has dropped and expenses have mounted. The economic troubles have heightened perception of refugees as a drain on Lebanese society and many want them to return to Syria. Of course, many Syrians would like to return home as well, especially given the conditions in Lebanon.

With the war continuing to progress, though, the United Nations does not recommend that refugees return. President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, and his government continue to make returning difficult even for those that would like to take the chance. Beyond the obvious physical danger of the ongoing conflict, a strict military draft and the threat of property seizure for the many refugees who are left without formal documentation for their homes are harsh deterrents for many people.

Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

It’s important to note that Syrians are not the only refugees in Lebanon. A population of around 270,000 Palestinians has settled in a few dozen U.N. camps around the country. Many of these people (or even parents of these people) have been in Lebanon since the Palestinian war in 1948. Today, these camps are essentially considered permanent settlements, and their longevity is part of what has inspired a more aggressive governmental push to ensure that Syrian refugees are only settled temporarily.

Palestinians in Lebanon have always been considered a separate legal class, with restricted access to certain public facilities, educational paths, careers and job opportunities. Many are forced to take low-paying, informal jobs.

The Syrian crisis has made life even more difficult for them, as both refugee groups must now compete for the same undesirable jobs. In 2015, 23 percent of the Palestinian population in Lebanon was unemployed. That number was only 8 percent before the crisis. Conditions are even worse for the 33,000 Palestinians who were living in Syria and have since become refugees in Lebanon as 93 percent of these people are reliant on U.N. aid as their primary source of livelihood.

International Aid for Refugees

While international news has largely moved on from the crisis, international aid continues to be involved in Lebanon and other similarly-strained countries. Thousands of families receive aid from U.N. groups, nonprofit organizations and other groups like the World Bank, to supplement governmental support and their own limited personal resources.

These sources of aid can be effective at reducing poverty, but many have been geared at short term solutions so far. As budgets and international aid dry up, support for the refugees in Lebanon will likely be most effective if it focuses on the long term effects. Groups like Habitat for Humanity are hoping to improve living conditions by building new homes and renovating old buildings as well as water and sanitation facilities. The UNHCR also has plans to shore up Lebanese infrastructure as part of the international effort.

However, with the instability in the region and the ongoing pressure to return to Syria and Palestine mounting, permanent solutions may not be a winning political idea in Lebanon. Time will tell, but in the meantime, it is vitally important not to forget the millions of people- Syrians, Palestinians, Lebanese and others- who are still impacted by the Syrian refugee crisis.

– Josh Henreckson

Photo: Flickr

Creative arts help the poor
In 2000, the second intifada erupted in West Bank and The Gaza Strip. The conflict resulted in 4,300 fatalities over the course of five years. Located in the heart of the conflict, Palestinian refugees residing in Aida Camp were subjected to frequent military attacks and their 
inexpensively built houses were exposed to land and air raids.

Israeli forces occupied their houses and commandeered their camp for military purposes all while schools were destroyed and roads were severely damaged. In the midst of this chaos, 11 young refugees of the Aida Camp assembled a group where creative arts help the poor in Palestine.

Starting The Lajee Center

Within the year, these creative members secured a 70 square meter garage for their place of operation. Their goal was to create a space in which Palestinians could creatively address their enduring struggle to secure their rights. They called this space The Lajee Center, a place where the creative arts help the poor on a daily basis.

Today, The Lajee Center is a cultural center that provides “refugee youth with cultural, educational, social and developmental opportunities.”  It services not only the roughly 39 percent of Aida Camp residents living on less than $2 a day but is also open to all Palestinians.

According to the organization’s website, “activities are organized with the goal of fostering in participants a wider understanding of the world in which they live, focusing on issues relating specifically to their own society, culture and history, as well as the global context.”

Lajee Center Programs

The programs of Lajee Center reflect the increasing reliance on the creative arts in order to address situations of extreme poverty. In fact, UNESCO has launched several initiatives in which the creative arts help the poor in various impoverished communities.

The organization recognizes that publishing, music, cinema, crafts and design play a role in allowing for freedom of expression, cultural diversity and economic development. The group also recognizes that the arts have the ability to address emerging inequalities that have resulted from the development of new technologies and international trade.

A Therapeutic Escape

The therapeutic benefits of creative outlets are well-known — children in the camp are guided in arts and crafts in which they are encouraged to visually express their greatest aspirations. Some partake in weekly dance lessons in the traditional Palestinian folk dance while others participate in the camp’s choral group or individual music lessons. The children report that the music not only connects them to their history but it also provides them with welcomed escapes from their harsh surroundings.

Perhaps, most importantly, the creative arts are a source of identity formation. The residents of the Aida Camp continue to be subjected to military violence as a result of the Israeli occupation. Members of the dance troupe have been injured and detained while others have been banned from travel.

Healing Powers of Art

A group of 50 was once detained in a building without ventilation and then targeted with tear gas grenades; however, the troupe has continued dancing because they value how dance is a part of their identity. It instills them with a sense of belonging and strengthens their claim as a distinct people deserving of basic human rights.  

The Lajee Center has earned international acclaim for its many artistic endeavors. The Lajee’s Center’s Palestinian folk dance troupe has performed not only around West Bank but has also toured to both The U.K. and Syria on several occasions. The organization has also participated in two cultural tours around The U.K. which exposed members’ photography, film and dance to over 3,000 members of the British public.

Global Renown

Furthermore, Lajee Center has organized 30 international photography exhibits showcasing the work of the camp’s youth. These exhibits took place in 9 different countries covering 4 different continents. In addition, 4 books written by Aida camps residents have been published internationally in both Arabic and English.

When attempting to find solutions to cases of extreme poverty in the world, it is easy to focus on economic barriers, access to education and lack of basic utilities.

Humanitarian Aid

Humanitarian groups readily assist in building wells, providing new agricultural technology and renovating schools. In all the frenzy, the cultural and artistic components are oftentimes overlooked; however, in order to most effectively implement these developmental measures, it is essential to understand the daily lives and beliefs of the people’s expected to adopt these new measures.

It is essential to address not only physical needs but also the emotional ones. Recognizing this importance, the Lajee Center has put culture and the arts at the heart of its grassroots humanitarian efforts and recognizes how creative arts help the poor in ways that traditional relief efforts cannot.

Joanna Dooley
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Palestine
Due to the ongoing conflict in the region, poverty in Palestine has been a notable topic. Below are 10 facts about poverty in Palestine that describe the statistics of the issue, yet portray hope for the future.

Facts About Poverty in Palestine

  1. Statistics show how poverty in Palestine is rampant. Approximately 26 percent of individuals fall into the poverty rate of having an average monthly household consumption of 985.8 Jordanian Dinar, which is equivalent to approximately $1,389.44 USD. The deep poverty rate is 13 percent. Lastly, the real GDP growth rate is zero percent.
  2. Palestine’s history lends itself to high unemployment rates. The 2016 Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics report shows that only 32.5 percent of Palestinians were working full time. Since 2013, the unemployment rate has steadily increased from 23 percent to approximately 27 percent. The highest unemployment rate is between the ages of 14 to 24, with 41.7 unemployment rate.
  3. Education does not extend much past the preparatory phase as about 38 percent of Palestinians receive this education. This is the average education for Palestinians. Only 13 percent achieve a Bachelor’s degree and on the other end of the spectrum, approximately three percent are illiterate. Following this pattern, as Palestinian children age, the educational attendance rate drops significantly. From 6 to 11 years of age, 98.4 percent attended school, while of those who are 18 years of age and older, only 11.4 percent attend education. Overall, about 40 percent of young Palestinians are attending schools.

The Role of Oxfam International in Palestine

  1. According to Oxfam International, 80 percent of the Palestinian population relies on humanitarian aid to survive. Many people living in the occupied territories have little access to basic services. Millions are denied the right to free movement to access their basic needs. These issues lead to the extreme poverty in Palestine.
  2. Since 1950, Oxfam International has been working in the occupied territories partnering with approximately 60 organizations to help the most vulnerable communities of Gaza, East Jerusalem, and Area C, “the 61 percent of the West Bank where the government of Israel maintains full military and civil control.”
  3. In these communities, Oxfam International helps citizens in a variety of sectors improve their quality of life and to reduce the poverty in Palestine. This organization advocates for land rights and rights of women and other marginalized groups. Oxfam also helps improve the quality of farms and help women start businesses. Overall, they “campaign for lasting peace, security for all civilians, respect for international law and an end to the blockade.”

Sustainable Development Goals Affected by Poverty

  1. In Palestine, 1.3 million do not have access to, or cannot afford, nutritious food. This is approximately 22.5 percent of the population. Food insecurity affects families headed by women more, accounting for approximately 36 percent of families, as opposed to the 21 percent of families headed by men that are food insecure. These statistics are even higher in the Gaza Strip, where 39 percent of families are food insecure.
  2. In 2015, the United Nations created the Sustainable Development Goals, which include Zero Hunger, food security, and improved nutrition. With the ongoing conflict, economic stagnation, restricted trade and access to resources, high unemployment and high poverty rates, Palestine faces difficulties reaching these goals.
  3. In 1991, the World Food Programme started assisting communities with high prevalence of food insecurity. Food insecurity is increased with the constant conflict, restricted movement, and reduced access to land. This organization is helping Palestine reach the Zero Hunger sustainable development goal.
  4. Other Sustainable Development Goals affected by the restricted movement and armed conflict include good health and well-being, quality education, and reduced inequalities, among others. These goals show how interconnected conflict, poor education and other injustices are to poverty.

These facts about poverty in Palestine demonstrate how help is available, but more programs led by organizations like Oxfam and the World Food Program are necessary to expedite Palestine’s ability to reach the Sustainable Development Goal of no poverty.

– Jenna Walmer

Photo: Flickr

Facts About Human Rights in Palestine
The history that created Israel, Gaza and the West Bank is not brief. The tensions can not be simply put as they require delicate unpacking and care. Until 1948, these three regions were all Palestine; following the Arab-Israeli War of 1947-1948, the land was divided between Jewish Israelis, whose ancestors began migrating to the area in the 1880s, and the Palestinian Arabs whose ancestors had lived in the region for hundreds of years. The dispute over ownership has since led to continued conflict.

Palestine/Israel Conflict

Jewish Israelis lay claim to the land based on a promise from God for a safe haven from widespread hostility to their faith. Palestinian Arabs, whose majority are Muslim but also include Christians and Druze, contest that they are the rightful inhabitants due to the length of their ancestors existence on the land.

Palestinians have been displaced to two regions, Gaza and the West Bank. Under the Oslo peace accords signed in 1993, Gaza was turned over to the newly created Palestinian Authority, to form one wing of an emerging Palestinian state, along with the West Bank and a potential land corridor between them. But two different parties rule these two regions — the militant Hamas controlled Gaza and Fatah ruled the West Bank.

These tensions run deep, and conflict persists. The Israeli government continues to enforce severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinian’s human rights, and Palestinian security forces continue to treat their own people with disrespect. Here are the top 10 facts about human rights in Palestine/Israel.

10 Facts About Human Rights in Palestine/Israel

  1. The Israeli government restricts the movement of people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip. Israel continues to maintain a decade-long effective closure of Gaza, as does the region’s neighbor, Egypt. This imposed border imposes restrictions that limit the supply of water and medical care as well as educational and economic opportunities. These blockades restrict exports and cripple the economy leading to exacerbated and widespread poverty. Approximately 70 percent of Gaza’s 1.9 million people rely on humanitarian assistance.
  2. Israel’s parliament has given itself the ability to dispossess Palestinian’s of their land. In February of 2017, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, passed the Regularization Law allowing Israel to take control of private Palestinian land on which they have profited from building settlements for Israeli settlers.
  3. Preferential treatment is given to Israeli settlers in the West Bank. In 2017, Israeli authorities destroyed homes and other property, and forcibly displaced hundreds of Palestinians while continuing to provide security, administrative services, housing, education and medical care for about 607,000 Israeli settlers residing in unlawful settlement housing built in the West Bank. The discriminatory practices also include the rejection of almost all building permit applications submitted by Palestinians.
  4. Feuds between Gaza’s two main governmental parties has led to periodic shutdowns of its only power plant. Disputes between Fatah and Hamas concerning responsibility for paying the plant’s fuel has led to frequent loss of electricity in Gaza. Power outages jeopardize water supply, interfere with sewage treatment and cripple hospital operations.
  5. Thousands of Palestinians have been imprisoned, on what Israeli authorities call “security grounds,” without charge or trial. The majority of these prisoners are overwhelmingly Palestinian. As of November 1, 2017, Israeli authorities incarcerated 6,154 inmates. In April and May later that same year, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners spent 40 days on a hunger strike seeking better conditions.
  6. The two leading Palestinian political groups — the Palestinian Authority and Hamas — have arrested and mistreated activists critical of their leaders, security forces and policies. The Independent Commission for Human Rights in Palestine received 205 complaints of torture and ill-treatment by Palestinian Authority security forces and 193 similar complaints against Hamas security forces.
  7. Torture perpetrated by the Palestinian police and security forces remain common. In September 2018, a 16-year old boy and another detainee died in unclear circumstances in a Hamas-controlled detention center. Instances of torture have been carried out with impunity in both the West Bank and Gaza.
  8. Security forces use excessive force to disperse protests. Palestinian security forces have used excessive force to violently suppress peaceful protests in the West Bank. On March 12, 2018, at least 13 men and eight women were injured. Seventeen people were hospitalized during a protest outside of the Ramallah District Court. Despite the Prime Minister’s commitment to upholding recommendations made by a Fact-Finding Commission to follow government regulations on the dispersal of protests, none of the officers responsible for the violence were brought to justice.
  9. Women and girls continue to face discrimination is both law and practice. The violation of women’s human rights in Palestine is most clearly seen in the inadequate protection of women and girls against sexual and other gender-based violence including “honor” killings. In 2017, at least 28 women and girls were reported to have been killed by male relatives in honor fashion. Article 308 of the Jordanian Penal Code allows those who commit rape or sexual assault to escape punishment by marrying their victim.
  10. Capital punishment has been used in Gaza. Six people were executed in 2017 after civil and military courts sentenced them to death for their “collaboration with Israel” and other offenses. In May, Hamas executed three men in a public square in Gaza city after a trial that lasted only one week (consisted of four brief sessions).

Supporting Humanity

Violence committed with impunity is a trait of no one creed but man; both Israelis and Palestinians violate the human rights of each other and themselves. These top 10 facts about human rights in Palestine/Israel and their total violation do little justice to what it is to live under the weight of so much hate.

“We are of one blood you and I.” This sentiment is as true between the people of Palestine and Israel as it is between those reading this and those suffering from the things discussed in this list. Showing indifference to hate allows it to flourish. Do not support representatives and policies that excuse indifference to crises such as what is happening in Palestine/Israel.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
Photo: Flickr

Threatens Millions of PalestiniansThe United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was established in 1949, after the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, in order to offer relief and works programs for Palestinian refugees. Since its inception, UNRWA has gone from helping some 750,000 Palestinian refugees to approximately 5 million Palestinians today.

Funding

Funded entirely by the contributions of U.N. member nations, UNRWA directs its efforts towards services ranging from education to healthcare to microfinance. Their budget is divided into 54 percent to education, 17 percent to health, 16 percent to support services, 9 percent to relief and social services, and 4 percent to infrastructure and camp improvement.

Unfortunately, these services are at risk due to a potential $250 million shortfall. A significant decline in the United States’ contribution, from $364 million last year to $60 million this year is said to be responsible for the shortage of funds.

Impact in Syria

Amidst the destructive conflict in Syria, 560,000 Palestinian refugees are among the worst affected. Through the Syria Crisis Response Plan, UNRWA provides vital humanitarian assistance through emergency healthcare, education, food and household items. In Syria alone, $411 million is necessary to maintain these crucial provisions.

The UNRWA has provided 44,000 young Palestinian refugees with the opportunity to pursue primary and secondary education. However, if the funding shortage cannot be met, their safety, as well as their education, is at risk.

Impact in Gaza

Through 22 health centers, UNRWA provides healthcare services to over 1.2 million Palestinian refugees in Gaza. Due to the ongoing conflict in Gaza and limited resources available, UNRWA also offers emergency food assistance to 830,000 Palestinian refugees living below the poverty line as well as 45,870 cash-for-work opportunities and counseling for upwards of 25,000 refugee children. Funding shortages place all of these essential services at risk.

UNRWA has 252 schools in Gaza that educate more than 240,400 students. These schools now face a similar, bleak fate to their Syrian counterparts should this massive funding gap fail to be filled. Aside from providing students a basic education, many of these schools include a dedicated human rights curriculum that promotes conflict resolution.

Impact in the West Bank

Palestinian refugees living in the West Bank are also at significant risk should the UNRWA not be able to resolve its funding shortage. UNRWA provides emergency food assistance to almost 36,000 households, in addition to working to improve camp environments for female and youth refugees. In 2012, for example, UNRWA assisted 113,374 food-insecure Palestinian refugees.

Significance of UNRWA Funding

According to Pierre Krahenbuhl, the commissioner general of the UNRWA, the most urgent threat the funding shortage poses is to emergency food aid to Palestinians in Gaza and Syria. However, the UNRWA has also been instrumental in offering high-quality education throughout the region, promoting gender equality, providing near-universal immunization, investing in small businesses, and providing food assistance to 1.7 million refugees.

What do all of these services have in common? They have been integral to raising Palestinian refugees out of poverty and ensuring basic human rights. We cannot allow UNRWA’s efforts to disappear. Failure to offer these resources threatens millions of Palestinians and only guarantees continued hardship for their communities and the region. 

– McAfee Sheehan
Photo: Flickr

girls’ education in PalestineAlthough the conflict in Palestine often grabs headlines, day to day functions, like girls’ education in Palestine, are important as well. According to The Brookings Institute, “Education, especially for girls and women, is one of the most highly leveraged investments that a developing country can make in its future.”

With its 25 percent rate of poverty and 60 percent rate of youth unemployment in conflict zones like Gaza, Palestine has an opportunity for growth and development. Investing in girls’ education could help kick-start that process. Girls’ education in Palestine can improve local young girls’ futures and the future of the whole region.

Palestinian women are among the most educated in the Middle East. They have a 94 percent literacy rate and go to primary school just as often as boys do. Palestinian girls consistently outscore their male peers in Tawhiji testing. In the 2006 school year, 14,064 more Palestinian women were enrolled in university than Palestinian men. Compared to the situations for women in Yemen, Egypt or Afghanistan, girls’ education in Palestine is thriving. However, there are still some obstacles to overcome.

Conflict with Israel

Conflict with Israel often disrupts the educational infrastructure of Palestine. Schools are damaged by rockets and bombs in volatile areas like the Gaza Strip and West Bank, limiting all children’s access to education. In 2014, in the Gaza Strip alone the education of 475,000 students was affected by this destruction. Palestinian schools in Israeli territory are regularly underserved, with overcrowded classrooms and lower budgets.

Higher Dropout Rates and Poorer Quality

Secondly, the dropout rate for high school students (though still low at less than 3 percent) has risen recently, with girls being slightly more likely than boys to leave school early. Women also tend to receive a poorer quality of education. Families are more likely to send boys to private schools because in a traditionally patriarchal culture they are seen as necessary for the extended family’s financial livelihood. When families have limited resources, they allocate them toward the boys who often work abroad, especially in the Gulf states.

Improvements for Girls’ Education in Palestine

Despite these challenges, girls’ education in Palestine continues to progress. Girls are equally represented in STEM alongside boys and their presence in universities continues to grow. The main challenges to female education in the region are political and cultural. While it may be unrealistic to expect a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian land conflict any time soon, attitudes about women are already changing.

One group of 40 Palestinian girls attending Sokaina Girls School in the Gaza Strip decided to challenge social norms about women’s role by building a library for their school. With support from UNICEF and other NGOs, they were able to bring a new world of learning and hope to a community where libraries are scarce. If more organizations and individuals supported initiatives for girls’ education in Palestine, the region would be one essential step close to eliminating poverty.

Despite cultural and political challenges, girls’ education in Palestine is progressing well. Success stories like the Sokaina Girls School library prove the power of education in bringing hope and change to the region’s underserved communities. A concentrated investment in these efforts for female education has the potential to reduce Palestinian poverty fundamentally.

– Lydia Cardwell
Photo: Flickr

poverty in PalestinePalestine is comprised of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and poverty in Palestine affects one-quarter of the 4.8 million residents. Half of the Palestinian population relies on aid for basic survival due to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

The unemployment rate among Palestinian youth is at 56 percent, the highest in the world. Thirty-three percent of households are food insecure, with rates even higher in refugee camps, “driven by high rates of poverty resulting from unemployment, which is in part due to ongoing Israeli access and movement restrictions, as well as high prices for food and economic shocks.”

The Israeli occupation of Palestine has been called the longest-running occupation in recent history. The World Bank reports that the nature of the ongoing occupation with no end in sight and manmade barriers have isolated Palestine from the rest of the world, damaging the country’s economic development and constraining growth and investment.

A new tax plan recently unveiled by the Palestinian Cabinet is due to expand the tax liability of Palestinian citizens. In an attempt to curb the 2018 budgetary deficit, which projects an increase in expenses to exceed the increase in revenues by 11 percent, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah met with business representatives and civil society members and agreed on “developing the tax system through tax liability by widening the base of taxpayers, attracting new taxpayers and limiting tax evasion.” These measures, which have been criticized as further burdening Palestinians, were reportedly taken in response to the threat by President Trump to halt all financial aid to the Palestinian Authority.

Residents have been dealing with poverty in Palestine for a very long time. International aid organizations have been able to somewhat address the immediate needs of Palestinian households in the aftermath of major crises. Groups like American Near East Refugee Aid and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, among others, have helped ease the sufferings of Palestinian locals and refugees by providing a critical lifeline for daily survival in the form of international and humanitarian aid.

Palestinian households have also utilized coping mechanisms such as relying on friends and extended families and saving money for higher education at an early stage of a child’s life. In order to prevent a power vacuum that emboldens extremist groups or other factions to seize power, observers have encouraged Palestinian political forces to rebuild a national movement based on democratic principles. Critics, however, have noted that there can be no real democracy under an Israeli occupation.

Palestine and its people face continuing challenges to their sustainable livelihood and daily survival, in part due to the political flashpoints that have deteriorated this Middle Eastern region’s stability, economic development and prosperity. Humanitarian and foreign aid has helped alleviate the stringent conditions of local businesses and foster development. Reducing poverty in Palestine is largely dependent on a change in the political conditions of this volatile region.

– Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in the Palestinian TerritoriesDue to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the people of the Palestinian territories are under a tremendous amount of stress. Adding to their troubles is the fact that citizens also have to worry about the risk of contracting certain diseases.

The most common diseases in the Palestinian territories are non-communicable; cancer and cardiovascular disease are especially common. Although there is not a lot of data on the matter, there is still enough to explain that these diseases are a serious problem. According to research, lung cancer is the cancer that is most responsible for male deaths in the Palestinian territories. Statistics also state that heart disease causes 26 percent of deaths there. While cardiovascular disease and cancer may be caused by people’s family histories and lifestyles, they remain an issue partially caused by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The division between the West Bank and Gaza makes access to healthcare more difficult to acquire for the people of the Palestinian territories. To cross the border, individuals need approved permits that allow them to do so. To make the process even more difficult, Israeli security services sometimes ask the patients to attend an interview in order to be granted access. The slow procedure of obtaining a permit results in health conditions worsening as the people wait for the opportunity to receive treatment.

Although the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provides the people with some obstacles, there have also been some advancements made. In 2015, Israeli authorities declared that men over 55 years and women over 50 years in age do not need permits. This caused the permit approval rate for West Bank patients to rise about five percent from the previous year. With improvements like this being made, healthcare access will hopefully continue to become more available and common diseases in the Palestinian territories – like cardiovascular disease and cancer – will become less common.

Raven Rentas

Photo: Google