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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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