Vocational Education Training in PalestineSeeing the role vocational education could play in Palestine, the League of Vocational Education and Training started operations in the early 2000s. The organization now has 16 members throughout Palestine, offering learning opportunities to students from various backgrounds. With Vocational Education and Training in Palestine, students have a chance to work toward a better future for themselves and their families.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)

The UNRWA is a U.N. agency that supports Palestinian refugees. The agency offers its support through vocational training and education offered to young Palestinian refugees. It manages eight training centers with semi-professional, trade and short-term courses in a variety of specializations that aim to prepare students for local employment. The region’s economic and social stability benefits from the specializations which include construction, nursing, hairdressing and fashion. The program has recorded significant success, reaching more than 123,000 graduates as of 2020. Even more, graduates of the program enjoy high success rates in finding employment or self-employment.

The UNRWA also supports young women through its training program. Out of the 7,930 trainees who graduated from the program in 2021, more than 3,500 were female.

Lutheran World Federation Vocational Training Program

The Lutheran World Federation in Jerusalem runs another initiative tagged the Vocational Training Program (VTP). This initiative has served as one path for Palestinians to receive vocational training, even through programs specifically designed for blind students, since 1949.

The VTP works actively to strengthen gender equity in the region by providing culturally accepted training to young women. One such example is training in electronics and telecommunication. The graduating class in 2015, which had 227 students, was 20% female.

With two training centers in Ramallah and Beit Hanina, the VTP is able to train about 210 students every year in fields such as carpentry, auto mechanics and telecommunications. There are even on-site boarding options available for students who have difficulty accessing the schools due to checkpoints and the Separation Wall. Short courses are also available in villages and refugee camps.

East Jerusalem YMCA

The YMCA operates a Vocational Training Center in East Jerusalem that aims to reduce poverty and provide Palestinian youth with opportunities for personal and professional growth. In addition to vocational courses, the center offers career counseling, dormitory space and a daycare nursery. These amenities are particularly beneficial for young women seeking enrollment in the program.

Graduates of Vocational Education and Training in Palestine have improved expectations for their future. In fact, 82% of graduates expect a better chance of finding employment while a higher 88% expect to start earning income after completing their programs.

These high expectations happen to be evident in employment rates too. While roughly 30% of Palestinian youth are employed or seeking employment, the number is 90% for Vocational Education and Training graduates.

Hope for Palestinians

Providing individuals with access to education and training could help in reducing poverty, as it presents an opportunity for personal and professional growth. In Palestine, education and vocational training play a vital role in providing youth with the means to build a better future. The region boasts several vocational training centers that offer equal opportunities for young Palestinians of any economic, disability or gender status to become qualified for employment within their communities.

– Christina Albrecht
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Palestine
According to a 2021 report from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), only 5% of the population in Palestine is 60 or older. The World Bank reports that Palestine’s poverty rate stood at 27.3% in 2021, a decrease of around 2% from the previous year when the economy deteriorated as a consequence of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Elderly people have an increased risk of falling into poverty and the absence of adequate social protection systems exacerbates this vulnerability. The U.N. states that “in most countries, the risk of poverty increases with age.” OECD countries’ data from 2015 indicates that people in the age category of above 75 report poverty levels higher than those in the 66-75 age group. In 2017, the prevalence of elderly poverty in Palestine stood at 27%, equating to 5% of Palestine’s total number of impoverished persons.

4 Facts About Elderly Poverty in Palestine

  1. Uneven distribution. Elderly poverty in Palestine is not evenly distributed across the country. In fact, according to data gathered in 2017 by the PCBS, the percentage of older people living in poverty in the Gaza Strip stood at 47%, which is almost 29% more than in the West Bank. The Gaza Strip notes higher poverty rates in general due to the now 15-year-long Israel-led blockade of Gaza, which has brought severe economic and humanitarian consequences to Gaza.
  2. Low education levels contribute to elderly poverty. Slightly more than 40% of the elderly in Palestine have no educational attainment. Given the relationship between education and economic well-being, this could be one of the factors affecting the financial stability of older individuals in the country. Moreover, lack of education significantly affects the transmission of poverty from generation to generation and education is often a key determinant of financial success. PCBS data from 2019 shows that illiteracy rates are highest among the elderly age group of 65 and older.
  3. Lack of economic independence increases vulnerability to poverty. Another significant fact about the demographic profile of older individuals in Palestine is that only 13% of them engaged in employment in 2018, with a stark contrast between the West Bank (16%) and Gaza (7%). This suggests that a large majority of the elder community is not financially independent, making them more vulnerable to poverty. As a matter of fact, senior citizens in Palestine typically depend on other family members to meet their needs.
  4. Health and disability. Approximately 48% of Palestine’s elderly had to deal with at least one impairment or disability in 2020. Mobility difficulties are the most common, followed by visual impairments. In addition, “33% of the elderly in Palestine suffer from at least one chronic disease according to a medical diagnosis (36% in the West Bank and 27% in Gaza Strip).” For elderly people living in poverty, a lack of access to essential goods and services could easily exacerbate health conditions, PCBS reports.

Looking Ahead

A lack of adequate social safety nets exacerbates elderly poverty in Palestine. In 2020, following the negative impacts of the pandemic on the country, the U.N.’s Joint Sustainable Development Goal Fund, the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF and the International Labour Organization (ILO) worked with the Palestinian Ministry of Social Development to improve the social protection system. The Joint SDG Fund says, “While the existing Palestinian social protection system is among the most advanced in the region, it is not sufficient to address the needs of the most vulnerable groups.” The collaboration aims to strengthen the social protection system and make it “more inclusive and accessible to older people, particularly women.”

In June 2022, Palestine’s GDP rose by 1.1%. A stronger financial performance may improve the living standards of the population overall.

– Caterina Rossi
Photo: Unsplash

Gender-Based Violence in Palestine
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) 2011 Violence Survey indicates that 37% of Palestinian women have experienced violence in some form. Within the Gaza Strip, gender-based violence rates rise to 51%. A 2005 U.N. Special Rapporteur’s report attributes the high rates of gender-based violence in Palestine to “traditional patriarchal norms and values” and the impacts of Israel’s occupation. The occupation has led to growing rates of poverty and diminished job prospects. The UNFPA explained that this has “contributed to a behavioral dynamic of men being more frustrated, unable to fulfill their expected role in this patriarchal society.” The struggle to “provide and protect” exacerbates domestic violence within households. However, three female Palestinian software developers set out to address both poverty and gender-based violence in Palestine through the creation of the Our Spaces app.

The Our Spaces App’s Origins

Local engineer Alaa Huthut spearheaded the creation of the Our Spaces (Masahatuna) app. The app aims to provide a discreet and confidential way for women to report domestic violence and seek assistance. The app leaves no trace of communication between the victim and social workers providing services through the Our Spaces app. Huthut recognized the importance of incorporating privacy into the app, acknowledging the dangers of exposing traceable interactions to abusive partners.

The Our Spaces app provides comprehensive assistance by linking victims and survivors of abuse to institutions that provide “psychological support, health services, legal services, economic empowerment services and shelter services,” Al-Monitor reports.

How Poverty and Abuse are Inextricably Linked

Providing access to services and resources for financial help is Our Spaces’ direct attempt to tackle the complicated intersectionality of poverty and abuse. Studies prove the existence of links between poverty and gender-based violence. Financial stress can contribute to the onset of domestic violence. Furthermore, impoverished women who are economically dependent on their abusive partners find it difficult to leave such situations.

In 2017, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reported that about 30% of Palestinians lived in poverty, however, the poverty rate in the Gaza Strip stood at about 53%. The link between poverty and abuse would suggest that these alarmingly high rates of poverty are in part responsible for the high level of domestic abuse within Palestine.

In order to tackle the issue of gender-based violence in Palestine from the ground up, the Our Spaces app seeks to address the root of the problem: poverty.

An Our Spaces Success Story

One woman’s story, which Al-Monitor originally covered, serves as a prime example of the ways Our Spaces’ services help mitigate the acuteness of abuse many women may experience. Reham, 23, told reporters at Al-Monitor that she had been affronting acute physical and verbal abuse by her spouse daily. She explained that her spouse had been taking his economic frustrations out on her through violence.

Reham reached out for assistance through the Our Spaces app to improve her family’s economic situation. The app connected her with a service that specializes in supporting families financially, and soon, Reham obtained a temporary job. She was able to ease her family’s economic difficulties and reduce the pressure driving her husband to unhealthy behavioral dynamics.

Addressing the Root Causes

Several global issues, ranging from gender-based violence to food insecurity and mortality, link back to the systemic issue of global poverty. The Our Spaces app provides a lesson about the importance of addressing not only the consequences of a systemic issue, in this case, gender-based violence, but also its root, poverty.

– Alisa Gulyansky
Photo: Flickr

Reduce poverty with microfinance
In order to implement its programs to help Palestine refugees in the Middle East, the United Nations created the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in 1949. UNRWA is working to help and protect all registered Palestine refugees in the area. The major part of the budget of UNRWA is coming from the U.N. Member States through voluntary contributions. UNRWA is a very unique agency as it is the first time that an organization has dedicated itself to helping a specific group of refugees for such a long time.

UNRWA is especially in charge to fight against poverty among the Palestine refugees. According to the numbers of the World Bank, more than 20% of the population of Palestinian territories are living below the poverty line of $5.50 a day.

For instance, in Lebanon, 70% of the active population of Palestine refugees living in the country did not have employment in 2019. Furthermore, the Palestine workers in Lebanon were the first victims of the crisis in Lebanon that occurred in 2019, as the Palestine workers were the first ones who experienced expulsion or a reduction of 50% of their wages.

Among the various tools that UNRWA uses to counter poverty among Palestine refugees and within the Palestinian territories, it utilizes its own Department focused on microfinance.

Microfinance, a Tool to Counter Poverty

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, Microfinance can be defined as “the activity or business of providing financial service to poor people or new businesses in poor countries.” As a matter of fact, microfinance services help organizations to support on a financial level poor people. Microfinance includes several financial tools such as loans and subsidies. With such financial resources, those poor people can improve their income as well as their livelihood. Indeed, they are using them for instance to create their own companies and cover their debts and so to have a new start in their life. This would only but allowing them to emerge from poverty to a more stable economic situation and ensure their financial sustainability.

When it comes to UNRWA, it established its own Microfinance Programme in 1991 in the city of Gaza to provide financial assistance to Palestine refugees but also to the poor and marginalized people among the locals. Then, the UNRWA Microfinance Programme was extended to the West Bank in 1994 and to Syria and Jordan in 2003 to help even more Palestine refugees and to reduce poverty with microfinance.

Microfinance is another tool that UNRWA uses to reach its goal entitled “A Decent Standard of Living.” This goal’s objective is to eliminate extreme poverty among Palestine refugees and marginalized groups in the Middle East and also to grant them new opportunities to develop their economic resources.

Microfinance, a Modern Financing Tool to Help Palestinian Refugees

The UNRWA Microfinance Programme developed many loans for Palestinian refugees and marginalized groups in the Middle East throughout the years. The goal was to reduce poverty with microfinance. Currently, the Programme has gathered nine different loans to help those in poverty implement small businesses and micro-enterprises or help families cover the education fees of their children.

About four of the nine loans focus on helping companies to grow and to create jobs. One of them is the microenterprise credit in order to help small businesses, less than five workers, which do not have access to credit. Another loan is the microenterprise credit plus, which aims to help small business to grow and develop. For small-scale companies with more than five workers, it is possible to ask for small-scale enterprise lending. The last loan within this category is targeting the owners of small-business by offering them some tips on how to develop their companies through small and medium enterprise business training, with donor grants paying for all costs.

Then, two of the nine loans are supporting the entrepreneurs by helping them with the creation and development of their startups. The Mubdarati – Youth Startup Loan is helping men and women between 18 and 30 to create their own businesses. The Start-Your-Business Loan Product provides funds to start-ups that people aged more than 30 years established.

The three remaining loans aim to help low-income families in covering costs for items like health care and education. The women’s household credit is supporting women in their daily life, helping them to establish activities that would generate income for them, which would help them increase household assets. As housing is an important right, UNRWA created the housing loan product to help poor families access property in 2006.

The last of the nine loans is the consumer loan product, which aims to help families pay for their children’s education or for health expenses.

The UNRWA’s Microfinance Programme’s Accomplishments

Since its creation in 1991, the UNRWA’s Microfinance Programme has granted more than 475,000 loans with a combined value of $531.41 million. Women have received 41% of this money and 28% has gone to youth since 1991.

Through those loans, the UNRWA is deeply involved in building a better economic situation for Palestine refugees in the Middle East and helping reduce poverty and unemployment with microfinance.

– Evan Da Costa Marques
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid to Palestine
There is no escaping the fact that the West Bank has significant indicators of improved living conditions and infrastructure. Roads that were once rough dirt trails have been smoothed out over the past three decades. Standard childhood vaccination rates have reached nearly 100%. Boys and girls are attending school and reading at record levels.

Since the Oslo Accords in the mid-1990s, a treaty that was meant to deliver peace and a Palestinian state, significant sums of foreign aid to Palestine made possible many of these changes: The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that between 1994 and 2020, funding to the Palestinians totaled more than $40 billion. 

Poverty-Affected Citizens

Due to the embargo on the Gaza Strip since 2007, which has caused a resurgence of hostilities and political divides, the Palestinian economy has suffered. A total of 2.1 million Palestinians—out of a total population of 5.3 million—need humanitarian aid. Parallelly, 80% of Gaza’s populace is aid-dependent.

A cycle of poverty, unemployment and food insecurity has mired people, which the rise in food and gasoline prices as a result of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has exacerbated. In the West Bank, where more than 60% of the land is under Israeli control and home to East Jerusalem, Area C and H2, 800,000 Palestinians require greater access to basic amenities like electricity, water and health care yet there is still little prospect for education or economic opportunity.

Individual States

Between 1994 and 2020, Germany, France, Norway, the U.K. and Japan provided more than 20% of all foreign aid to Palestine. Along with their contributions to UNRWA, Germany and other European nations were anticipated to invest up to €80 million ($70 million) in water projects in Gaza in 2021.

The European Union

In 2021, the European Commission rapidly redirected €100,000 from current World Health Organization (WHO) initiatives to address the first emergency health requirements in reaction to the violence raging throughout Palestine and the high number of civilian deaths. The Palestinian Authority launched the COVID-19 immunization program on March 21, 2021, following the receipt of vaccinations from the COVAX facility.

With more than €2.2 billion, the EU and its member states are one of the largest funders of COVAX. Since 2000, the European Union has contributed more than €818 million in humanitarian aid to support the Palestinian people with their most basic needs.

The United Nations

U.N. organizations spent nearly $4.5 billion, including $600 million in 2020 alone, in Gaza between 2014 and 2020. Three-quarters of Gaza’s population are Palestinian refugees, who receive more than 80% of that funding through the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees. UNRWA, which also offers food assistance and health services, runs schools for some 280,000 students in Gaza.

The World Bank

The World Bank granted a $30 million Development Policy Grant for the Palestinian Territories to assist reforms in the areas of inclusiveness, transparency and the green economy on July 7, 2022. Additionally, the World Bank will give $7 million to Gaza’s most vulnerable populations.

While the Gaza Emergency Support for Social Services Project offers access to a variety of social services, short-term funding for services, and online work possibilities, 80% of recipients of a comparable intervention under the Gaza Emergency Cash for Work and Self-Employment Support fund contracts worth more than $500,000, demonstrating the effectiveness of this modality in fostering employment prospects for adolescents and women in particular.

The Arab Nations

Between 1994 and 2020, five Arab nations gave the Palestinians the majority of the $8.5 billion in Arab funding. Their abundance in oil and gas plays a crucial role in maintaining the welfare of Palestinians, which also increases their capacity to have an influence on the Palestinian cause. Saudi Arabia received $4 billion in donations during this time, followed by the UAE ($2.1 billion), Algeria ($908 million), Qatar ($766 million) and Kuwait ($758 million) as the top five donors.

Since 2012, Qatar has given Gaza $1.3 billion in aid for infrastructure, health care and agriculture. This includes the $360 million allocated in January for 2021 and the additional $500 million pledged in May for post-war rehabilitation. The money from Qatar also helps pay the wages of the Hamas leadership and supports needy families. According to the Palestinian Authority, $1.7 billion will go to Gaza, with it primarily going toward pay for the tens of thousands of government officials who had to leave their jobs in 2007 when Hamas assumed power.


Foreign aid to Palestinians came in a variety of forms and sizes, for a variety of reasons. These included crisis relief, development projects, budget support, donations to grassroots groups, loans and technical help. Regardless of the aims or types of help that Palestinians have received over the past 20 years, this aid has had a substantial impact on the country’s political, social and economic landscape.

Although there have been substantial socioeconomic improvements, more foreign aid in Palestine is necessary to promote the establishment of institutions necessary for a two-state solution and to fulfill Palestinian aspirations for their economy to be on the road to sustainable growth.

– Karisma Maran
Photo: Flickr

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

Cellular Coverage in Palestine
Expanding cellular coverage in Palestine is one of the first steps toward more equitable access to the internet in the modern age. Palestine struggles with a decades-long conflict with neighboring Israel, which, in turn, affects the living conditions of the Palestinian people. Among other things, access to technology is necessary for many of the daily tasks people in developed, flourishing societies complete on a regular basis.

Access to the internet can help ease tasks such as looking for a job or finding the least expensive childcare or health care. The internet is also essential for maintaining a home computer. Palestine has struggled to expand its cellular networks thus far in the 21st century and limited access to the internet affects the living conditions of the Palestinian people.

Economic Hardship

Aside from the direct ramifications that limited access to the internet causes, there are also macro implications. For instance, in 2016, The World Bank reported that “Palestinian cellular companies lost between $436 million and $1.5 billion in potential revenue.”

Israeli SIM cards can be brought into Palestine by either the many Palestinians who work across the border in Israel or by illegal smuggling, according to Reuters. Since the Israeli SIMs are more reliable and have access to a faster network, they are preferable to the Palestinian ones.

People across Palestine, therefore, are inclined to choose the Israeli SIMs over local Palestinian ones thereby causing the Palestinian companies to lose out. Observers believe that the lack of technology in Palestine contributed to an underdeveloped economy.

Access to the Internet

The quality of Palestine’s internet access has also suffered. Unfortunately, much of Palestine still relies on 2G or 3G due to longstanding conflict and other issues, much of nearby Israel has access to 4G or 5G. Prior to January 2018, Palestinians only had access to 2G. Meanwhile, by 2018 Israel had adopted an upgrade to 3G. In 2018, after Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, cellular providers were able to launch local 3G networks with the long-term goal of expanding cellular networks in Palestine.

Negotiations in Progress

Because the relationship between Palestine and Israel is so contentious, even though talks between the two in April 2022 sought to expand coverage in Palestine, actual expansion has yet to manifest itself. As of August 2021, plans were put in place to expand Palestine’s 3G coverage to 4G.

Israel successfully upgraded its internet access to 4G in 2014, so Palestine remains behind in that regard. Agitating parts of the region such as the tumultuous Gaza strip remain at 2G operation as of 2020, according to Reuters.

Upgrade efforts seek to remedy the disparities, but there are significant political considerations at play. Gaza, for example, is home to Hamas, a Palestinian nationalist political organization, so Israel is hesitant to expand coverage in that region. Other reports suggest that Israel is taking advantage of its more advanced cellular networks for increased revenue and perhaps even surveillance of its political opponents in Palestine. As a result, because the region is so contentious, progress tends to be slow.

Technology Companies

Technology executives at companies such as Palestine Telecom Group (Paltel) are confident that negotiations and cooperation between Palestine and Israel will be successful in expanding cellular coverage in Palestine, according to The Jerusalem Post. Palestinian cellular companies invested over $50 million to expand 3G infrastructure across the West Bank, a positive sign on the path to expanding cellular coverage in Palestine. In late November 2021, negotiations between Israel and Palestine resulted in Israeli officials agreeing to expand 4G coverage to Palestine, according to The Times of Israel.

Moving Forward

In Brussels on May 10, 2022, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) viewed the Palestinian Economic Monitoring Report, as an important step in bringing additional assistance to the Palestinian people. The report emphasizes various areas of concern for the Palestinian economy, one of which is digital infrastructure. The report asks for international cooperation and negotiations in order to achieve some of its goals.

Along with the investment that companies are putting in cellular networks and the potential cooperation between Palestine and Israel, some are optimistic that expanding cellular coverage in Palestine is possible. Certain parts of Palestine could hopefully see 4G networks within the coming years. Though the transition from 3G to 4G is slow and costly, permission to expand the networks is a positive step in the direction of progress.

– Lara Drinan
Photo: Flickr

Charities Operating in Palestine
Government aid initiatives can take years to create, revise and implement, but through supporting charities, everyone and anyone can help those who need it most. While waiting for new foreign aid dollars to materialize, local and international charities can provide direct impact to support goals to reduce hunger, disease and poverty. International charities have the wherewithal to improve overall living conditions in developing areas throughout the world. With ongoing humanitarian issues in the occupied Palestinian territories and recent violence in Gaza, United States citizens can support the seven large U.S.-based charities operating in Palestine. These seven organizations strive to help reduce poverty, provide emergency medical care, improve education and health care and secure access to clean water. Each of the seven established charities operating in Palestine has an incredible impact on those it serves and can further the goal of eliminating global poverty.

1. Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA)

Islamic Relief USA is an independent non-governmental organization (NGO) that has been operating in the United States since 1993. It provides support to those in need in Palestine and elsewhere.  IRUSA has many successful programs that provide food aid and address family sustainability as well as safe water and sanitation support. For example, IRUSA recently provided food assistance to 4,160 families in Gaza so they could purchase food for Ramadan. Its clean water and sanitation initiatives have prevented flooding and contamination in long-term programs. As a U.S.-recognized charity, IRUSA maintains active relationships with the federal government. It ensures all donations are in compliance with U.S. regulations. IRUSA has a clear role in decreasing poverty and addressing health concerns in Palestine.

2. Anera

Anera is a U.S.-registered NGO that targets charitable donations toward emergency relief and sustainable programs for Palestinian refugees and vulnerable communities. It receives funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department to continue bringing medical aid, safe water, education, long-term security and better hygiene to poor Palestinian communities. In 2021, Anera provided 120 awareness classes for waterborne illnesses and 117,175 hot meals for struggling families. That year, it also installed six water purification systems in Gaza and connected 1,152 homes with safe water.

3. Palestine Children’s Relief Fund

The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) is a U.S. humanitarian aid group based in Ohio. PCRF focuses on providing sick and injured Palestinians with care. PCRF volunteers from around the world staff its medical missions. Importantly, it has created two Palestinian cancer centers. It has also provided 2,000 sick and injured children free medical care. PCRF touts a four-star rating with Charity Navigator, the largest U.S. charity evaluator.

4. United Palestinian Appeal

United Palestinian Appeal (UPA) is a non-political, U.S.-based organization that aims to eliminate suffering and promote long-term socio-economic and cultural development in Palestine. UPA has reached a four-star rating with Charity Navigator. Its donations support programs in health and wellness. They also boost Palestine’s community and economic development, education quality and cultural outreach. During the last decade, UPA has installed solar energy systems in schools in Gaza, and built a craniofacial surgery center in the West Bank.  It has also constructed three harbors. Finally, UPA also provides emergency aid to help marginalized victims during crises.

5. Middle East Children’s Alliance

Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA for Peace) strives to “protect the rights and improve the lives of children in the Middle East.” It does this through direct aid including medical aid, food, hygiene kits and clothes to people in need in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon. In addition, MECA for Peace provides financial support to clinics, schools, counseling centers, parks and libraries. Recent diverse projects include building water purification systems in underdeveloped schools and providing university scholarships to allow students to continue their education and help their communities prosper.

6. Muslim Aid USA

Muslim Aid USA (MAUSA) provides assistance through emergency response, health care support and providing clean water and food aid. It also focuses on boosting economic development and improving education. Finally, MAUSA has orphan sponsorship and winterization programs. One current project is a plan to install 51 desalination units so 85,000 people in Gaza can gain clean water access. A second current initiative will train 200 health care staff in neonatal life support in order to reduce infant mortality. MAUSA has also provided food aid for 500 families in the Alnussirat Refugee Camp during Ramadan. Finally, it has helped needy families in Gaza winterize.

7. United Hands Relief and Development

United Hands Relief and Development (UHRD) is an international NGO with headquarters in Texas. Its goals include alleviating poverty, eliminating hunger, protecting human rights and supporting orphans. UHRD is currently appealing for the support of those in need in the Palestinian territories. Its emergency medical kits include milk and diapers for infants as well as hygiene and medical supplies and food. It has earned high marks from charity evaluators including Guidestar and Charity Navigator.

 A Look Ahead

These non-political, recognized, transparent and award-winning charities operating in Palestine are fighting to decrease hunger, disease and water contamination. As a result, the quality of life is improving for the Palestinian territories’ most vulnerable, marginalized and poor. In fact, these organizations and ones like them allow ordinary citizens in the United States and around the world to effectively fight global poverty.

– Karen Krosky
Photo: Flickr

The Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in the Palestinian Territories
The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in the Palestinian territories has been extensive. COVID-19 devastated the previously struggling economies of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In the last quarter of 2019, the Gaza Strip had a 43% unemployment rate while the West Bank had a 14% unemployment rate. Moreover, the recent conflict between Hamas and Israel, lasting from May 10, 2021, to May 21, 2021, further disrupted the Palestinian economy.

COVID-19 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

In March 2020, the Palestinian Authority (PA) identified the first cases of coronavirus in the Palestinian territories. Surges in cases since August 2020 have resulted in intermittent lockdowns and stressed an already burdened Palestinian healthcare system. The Palestinian healthcare system’s already limited capacity and dearth of specialized medical care workers means the Palestinian territories have an insufficient ability to handle large influxes of COVID-19 patients. Also, Israeli-implemented movement restrictions between the Palestinian territories and Israel have constrained Palestinian efforts to combat COVID-19 by delaying the Palestinian territories’ acquisition of necessary medical equipment.

As of June 2, 2021, the vaccination campaign across the Palestinian territories has vaccinated 344,260 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip or 7% of the population. Thus far, COVAX has heavily supported the Palestinian vaccination effort and aims to vaccinate 20% of the Palestinian population.

State of the Palestinian Economy

Coronavirus-induced social distancing and lockdown measures have further weakened the fragile Palestinian economy. Even before COVID-19, political instability, periods of violence and Israeli restrictions on human and material movement in and out of the Gaza Strip were already causing a state of humanitarian emergency in the Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, the PA’s suspension of coordination with Israel between May 2020 and November 2020 intensified the impact of COVID-19 on poverty. The suspension led Israel to suspend tax transfers to the PA, which account for the majority of the PA’s budget.

Due to the health and socioeconomic crisis, the Gaza Strip’s unemployment rate jumped to 49% by the end of 2020. Likewise, the pandemic has caused wages to decline by 50% or more in nearly 40% of West Bank households. In the West Bank, the pandemic and tax revenue crisis caused the PA, the territory’s largest employer, to cut its staff’s pay in half.

The pandemic also intensified Gazan food insecurity. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reported that “food expenditure declined in 40% of surveyed households in Gaza once lockdowns went into effect.” As of early 2021, 68% of Gazans were food insecure.

Altogether, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in the Palestinian territories has been drastic as experts project the pandemic will push many households below the poverty line. Specifically, estimates indicated the proportion of Gazan households living in poverty would jump from 53% in 2019 to 64% by the end of 2020 and the proportion of West Bank households living in poverty would rise from 14% to 30% in the same period.

Israel-Hamas Conflict

The May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas worsened already dire living conditions in the Gaza Strip and may increase COVID-19 cases in the territory. The conflict damaged 57 Gazan educational facilities and 29 Gazan health facilities. Moreover, the conflict damaged the Gaza Strip’s water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure, which serves 1.2 million people.

When the conflict caused the number of Gazan internally displaced persons to temporarily spike to 77,000, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) raised concern that the displacement may spread COVID-19. Following the conflict, positive cases in the Gaza Strip increased and now account for 84% of all COVID-19 cases in the Palestinian territories.

Renewal of US Aid to the Palestinian Territories

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in the Palestinian territories has been stark. However, the Biden administration recently ended a nearly three-year U.S. hiatus on aid to Palestinians. On April 7, 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced an aid pledge promising $275 million. The pledge dedicates $150 million to fund UNRWA, which serves nearly six million Palestinians across the Middle East.

The Biden administration earmarked another $15 million to aid the Palestinian response to COVID-19 and provide food assistance. Furthermore, the aid plan will provide the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) with $75 million to fund economic and development assistance projects and $10 million to fund peace-building programs. USAID will use more than half of the $75 million to improve access to water and sanitation and upgrade Palestinian infrastructure.

During Secretary Blinken’s visit to Ramallah, he announced another $112 million of aid to Palestinians. Specifically, the U.S. will provide another $32 million to fund UNRWA. The pledge will also provide another $75 million in economic and development assistance to Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and $5.5 million in immediate assistance to the Gaza Strip. During the visit, Secretary Blinken also outlined the United States’s goal to procure 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccines for Palestinians.

Future Outlook

While the U.S. only recently announced its Palestinian territories aid plan, the pledge will contribute to combating COVID-19 and provides a hopeful outlook for reversing the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in the Palestinian territories. Additionally, international efforts to procure vaccines and support COVAX have the potential to increase Palestinian access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

Zachary Fesen
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