Palestinian refugees in Lebanon
In an essay on humanitarian purpose, Ilana Feldman expressed a sentiment that many humanitarian workers share. She expressed hopelessness in her ability to alter the lives of suffering Palestinians. She believes that this despondency has led many humanitarian workers to promote endurance and resilience within a harsh reality. Instead of a determination to alter this reality, Palestinian refugees must endure it, including those in Lebanon. This hopelessness was not as prevalent in 1947.

The Nakba

Between 1947 and 1949, the flight of Palestinians reached staggering numbers. By 1949, approximately 750,000 Palestinians had fled Israel. According to the Palestinian narrative, these refugees underwent forcible expulsion. In fact, evidence exists to suggest this. One Israeli intelligence document estimates that 75% of Palestinians fled as a result of Zionist military action. Israelis claim otherwise.

Their flight followed the U.N. partition plan. In 1947, because of increasing feuds between the Palestinian, British and Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, the British decided to end its mandate over Palestine and transfer control to the U.N. general assembly. The U.N. chose to partition Palestine into two separate states. The Jews would receive around 56% of the land, and the Arabs would receive around 43%.

The majority of Arabs, however, experienced disillusionment with this outcome, as their population outweighed Jews by more than half a million. Thus, the ensuing war led to what Arabs term the nakba or the catastrophe and what Zionists term the Israeli War for Independence. This nomenclature highlights the contrasting narratives of the Palestinians-Israeli conflict.

After the Israeli victory in 1948, many of the 750,000 Palestinian refugees fled to neighboring countries. One of these countries was Lebanon. Today, the number of Palestinian refugees has risen to approximately 5 million. As many as 476,000 reside in Lebanon and are registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The Weight of Economic Decline on Palestinians

On August 4, 2020,  catastrophe plagued Lebanon. A port in Beirut housing ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical, exploded. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 178 people have died and 300,000 people are homeless as a result of the explosion. These conspicuous hardships accompany economic decline.

Approximately half the population lives below the poverty line, and the Lebanese currency has dropped by 80%. Before the explosion and the rise of COVID-19, the debt was nearly $80 billion, the third-highest debt-to-GDP ratio in the world. Some ascribed this economic crisis to corruption. Others believed it was the vestiges of the 15-year Lebanese civil war. Today, the debt is $93.4 billion, an 8.9% increase from February 2020.

Such circumstances have disproportionately affected Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The financial crisis has fostered a decline in services provided by the UNRWA, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA). For years, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon could not obtain employment in as many as 39 different professions.

Today, the financial crisis has bred unemployment for the few Palestinians fortunate enough to receive employment in Lebanon. In conjunction with inadequate electricity and a lack of clean water, the 12 Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon have also experienced a spike in depression.

Conclusion

Despite grim circumstances, various organizations—the Lebanese Red Cross, the Lebanese Food Bank, Impact Lebanon and the Amel Association–have raised millions of dollars to assuage the economic and health-related impacts of the explosion. Additionally, the UNRWA is ameliorating the spread of COVID-19. Efforts range from regular sterilization of camps to education on the virus for Palestinian refugees. Much more can occur to acknowledge the plight of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and the opportunity to return to their self-proclaimed homeland is still a distant hope. But these efforts do not simply contribute to endurance for Palestinian refugees. They do not amount to a default outcome. Though they should feel unsatisfying to any ambitious humanitarian worker, they still render real-world outcomes for Palestinian refugees. Amid growing hopelessness, that is nonetheless something to praise.

Blake Dysinger
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare Inequity and the COVID-19 Crisis in PalestineThe COVID-19 crisis in Palestine is worsening due to conflict in the region. Palestine is comprised of two territories that are separated by Israel. This includes Gaza and the West Bank. With Israelis preventing Gazans from leaving the area, Israeli soldiers are destroying agricultural lands that are vital for the Palestinian economy.

Palestinians, specifically those living in Gaza, have lived their entire lives relatively isolated from much of the outside world. A wall that was erected along Gaza’s borders prevents Palestinians from leaving the territory and subjects them to Israeli discretion. Help from NGOs and humanitarian aid can reduce the COVID-19 crisis in Palestine.

Pre-Pandemic Healthcare in Palestine

One consequence of the Israeli occupation is the scarcity of healthcare providers and resources in Palestine. In order to access Israeli health facilities, Palestinians must obtain travel permits, but these permits are frequently denied. There are 300,000 Palestinians living without access to adequate healthcare in the West Bank. The few healthcare facilities that do exist in the occupied territories face equipment and medicine shortages. The effort to increase the number of health facilities in Gaza has been hindered by Israeli refusing to grant construction permits and restrictions on medical imports and exports.

Impacts of COVID-19 on Palestinian Healthcare

The COVID-19 crisis in Palestine devastated its already inadequate Palestinian healthcare system. Gaza and the West Bank have a total of 375 ICU beds and 295 ventilators between them, for a population of over three million. The lack of available resources has severely hindered pandemic response in the territories, with health officials halting COVID testing in June due to a shortage of test kits in Gaza.

The sole laboratory in Palestine capable of processing COVID tests was forced to close as it lacked sufficient equipment. Household resources such as hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes and even soap are scarce in Gaza and the West Bank. This is due to the lack of financial means. In addition, Palestinians don’t have the luxury to use social distancing to prevent the spread of the pandemic as the territories are severely overcrowded.

The ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict has exacerbated the severity of the COVID-19 crisis in Palestine. In July 2020, Israeli forces destroyed a quarantine facility in the West Bank, thus further decreasing the amount of pandemic-response resources available to Palestinians. Moreover, hospital space that could be used by COVID patients is largely occupied by the high volume of people seeking treatment for injuries acquired from conflict with Israelis.

Israel has also imposed restrictions on medical supplies, subsequently reducing treatment capacity in Gaza. In April 2020, Israeli authorities destroyed a Palestinian COVID testing center. It has been reported that water, sanitation and hygiene facilities are also casualties of Israeli attacks.

Aiding Pandemic Response in Palestine

The World Health Organization published an updated COVID-19 Response Plan for Palestine in April 2020. This plan involves increasing testing capacity, providing additional hospital beds and educating the Palestinian public about virus prevention. It also aims to increase the amount of personal protective equipment available to health professionals.

Palestinian healthcare providers rely heavily on humanitarian aid and NGOs such as Anera. Anera works towards increasing healthcare access in Palestine by distributing medication, wheelchairs and funding to healthcare providers in Gaza and the West Bank. In addition, Doctors without Borders or, Medecins Sans Frontieres, provides medical care such as trauma support, mental health services, surgeries and treatment for burn patients in the occupied territories.

The COVID-19 pandemic and other preceding disease-outbreaks have often been referred to as “great equalizers,” as they are able to affect all people. Yet, as noted by Dr. Stephen Mein, low-income populations and racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to contract these diseases. Socioeconomic disparities and political situations such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict prevent pandemics from becoming equalizers. This is because disadvantaged groups are disproportionately being impacted.

In the case of Palestine, tensions between Palestinians and Israelis have had devastating effects on the pandemic-response. The isolation of Gaza and the West Bank should have prevented the COVID-19 situation in Palestine from escalating so rapidly. Yet, the lack of funding and medical resources as well as political tensions and overcrowding in the territories, have resulted in many potentially preventable fatalities.

Although the COVID-19 crisis in Palestine remains a critical issue, the number of daily COVID cases has been continuously declining. Support from organizations such as Anera has alleviated pressure from the Palestinian leadership.

– Maariyah Kharal
Photo: Flickr

Addressing Food Insecurity in Palestinian Territories
In 2018, the World Food Programme reported that 68.7% of urban Palestinian territories and 67.4% of refugee camps experienced food insecurities. As the poverty rate continues to increase, COVID-19 has further damaged the nation’s economy. Despite the Palestinian market’s dependence on agriculture, many factors have affected the region including foreign occupation, insufficient governance and distanced global intervention. Palestine’s history of unsustainable farming practices and social pressures to sell land still exist, making food insecurity in its territories an ongoing struggle.

A History of Hunger

Poverty has affected these regions since the early 15th century as governing entities have deterred progression in agricultural advancement. Until the 1920s, the British occupation of Palestinian territories did not emphasize its agricultural sectors, leaving many farmers with elementary techniques.

In the 1950s, the neighboring Israeli state emerged, vastly increasing economic competition. The Arab-Israeli War of 1948  resulted in widespread poverty, creating an overflow of Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip. The rule of the Jordanian annexation of the West Bank in the 1950s changed land and water policies and increased taxation on Palestinian lands. Shortly after, Israeli’s markets began to bleed into Palestinian territories, and the two nations’ economies began to blend. Many Palestinians became the cheap labor source under the Israeli market system.

Considering the lack of diplomatic unity and relocation of labor and resources, the state of Palestine has never had a chance to renovate agricultural practices to sustain a consistent food source. One major source of stagnation exists that perpetuates the cycle of economic recession and insufficient production in Palestinian territories: the neighboring Israeli nation. Palestinian resources often go to Israeli markets due to the merging of the two nations’ economies. With Palestinian refugees working within Israel’s economy, Palestinian land, water, livestock and agriculture sectors work to fuel the neighboring commercial systems, deducting from Palestinian progress or self-efficiency.

An Ongoing Challenge

In 2021, Palestinians are still facing severe food insecurity along the Gaza Strip, battling various levels of poverty that the pandemic exacerbated. State efforts have undergone fragmentation, as the governing body is thinly spread between responding to COVID-19, severe food insecurity and the Israeli threat of annexation of the West Bank.

To combat this turbulence and provide aid to Palestinian territories, the UNRWA and IRUSA have collaborated to donate $2.44 million to provide COVID-19 relief and support food security. These nonprofit organizations target refugees and children in need of food assistance and contribute to education, health, food, livelihood and women’s initiatives.

Though these U.S. organizations have supplied funding to alleviate some poverty and food insecurity in Palestinian territories, these projects are temporary assistance because the problem has not experienced complete elimination.

Systemic Solutions

In efforts to mitigate the recession, Palestinian sectors are taking part in “agro-resistance” to reclaim independence and labor. Localization tactics are constantly circulating; the Palestinian people participate in nonviolent demonstrations and work to redefine methods of agriculture. Locals work together to catch rainwater from rooftops, preserve and catalog seeds and create gardens within households to support self-sustainability.

The most crucial advancement within this process is the education of farmers. Nonprofit organizations such as the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and Ma’an Permaculture Center work with the locals to reduce food insecurity in Palestinian territories and to rebuild the economy. The effort still continues as each sector receives education and renovation, even amid COVID-19 and existing poverty.

– Linda Chong
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Palestine
Palestinian refugees and citizens in the Occupied Territories are exposed to a great amount of violence and terror as a result of the Israeli occupation. This exposure has increased the prevalence of mental health disorders such as PTSD, insomnia and even schizophrenia. This article will provide some insight into the mental health issues that are prevalent among Palestinians, the healthcare system and the possible solutions to help facilitate a better mental health response.

The Conditions 

Palestinians in the Occupied Territories live in a very volatile and unstable region. Recently, there has been an increase in the awareness of the effects that living through decades of continuous political aggression and violence have on mental health. Mental health disorders amount to one of the largest – but the least acknowledged – health problems in Occupied Palestine. Almost a third of Palestinians are in dire need of mental health interventions. However, mental health services in Occupied Palestine are amidst the most under-resourced fields of healthcare provision.

Palestinians have experienced a series of traumatic events that range from imprisonment and torture to unemployment, house demolitions and land confiscation. All these experiences foster an environment of continuous instability, stress, uncertainty and anxiety, which can dangerously affect mental health. 

Mental health is a concern for both adults and children in the Occupied Territories. Adults who are exposed to house demolitions exhibit a higher level of anxiety, depression and paranoia. However, the psychological effects of the conditions in Occupied Palestine are especially traumatizing for children. Many injured children have developed severe psychological impairments. The prevalence of behavioral issues and psychopathic symptoms among children is incredibly high. About 32.7% of children in the Gaza Strip suffer from severe levels of PTSD, 49% of children suffer through moderate levels of PTSD and 16% of children suffer from low levels of PTSD.

The Healthcare System

As of now, mental health services in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are provided by both the government and the non-governmental sector. General services are provided by the Ministry of Health but the majority of the system is operated under and funded by humanitarian organizations like UNRWA. There are only 13 community mental health clinics in the West Bank, and one psychiatric hospital in Bethlehem. In 2013, the clinics with outpatient facilities treated over 2400 patients. Of the 2,400 patients, 24.2% were diagnosed with neurotic disorders (PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder and clinical depression) and 12.2 % were diagnosed with schizophrenia. 

Generally, mental health services in Gaza and the West Bank are difficult to come by and inconsistent in quality. There is no legislation that addresses mental health and no budget allocated by the Ministry of Health. The region does not have mental health policies or an overview plan to address ongoing care and services for the severely mentally ill and those directly affected by trauma and loss. 

What Needs to Be Done 

The healthcare system in Palestine relies heavily on humanitarian aid and assistance. However, this funding and aid could easily be subjected to budget cuts from countries like the United States. Currently, the Ministry of Health does not allocate any funds to mental health services.

To effectively address mental health in Palestine, the government must create a fund for mental health services. The government should also promote legislation that addresses mental health. This legislation could include the protection of employment rights for those mentally ill, the integration of mental illness within the education system as well as civil legislation to address the rights to vote or own property.

It is also important for the Ministry of Health and NGOs to work together to create a comprehensive plan that addresses mental health. In collaboration, these organizations can acquire more hospital beds and help hospitals accommodate a greater number of patients. If mental health is made a priority, it can be effectively addressed in the coming years.

Nada Abuasi
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Palestine
Palestine is an occupied state in West Asia with scattered claims over territories now under Israeli occupation, including Gaza, which borders the Mediterranean Sea and West Bank bordering Jordan. The territories of West Bank and Gaza alone are home to 5 million Palestinian people. Decades of conflict with Israel over territorial disputes has left the country ravaged. Poverty, malnutrition and the worsening humanitarian situation in the region have deeply affected the living conditions in Palestine. This has caused increased child poverty in Palestine.

A UNICEF report in 2018 predicted that around 1 million children in Palestine were in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Additionally, it stated that one-third of the population was living below the poverty line with unemployment rates in Gaza peaking at 53.7%. The current COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation worse for Palestinian children. The Ministry of Social Development of Palestine suggested in April 2020 that nearly 53,000 families in Palestine were at risk of poverty in the very first few months of the pandemic. Here are some facts about COVID-19 and how it has impacted child poverty in Palestine.

5 Facts About Child Poverty in Palestine During the COVID-19 Pandemic

  1. Crisis in Gaza: The territory of Gaza, which is one of the most populated areas in the world, has been under a blockade that Israel imposed since 2003. This has further severed access to humanitarian assistance in the region. In September 2020, the Special Rapporteur of the situation of Human Rights in Palestinian Territory commented that Gaza was on a brink of being unliveable. The prolonged blockade also led to a weak healthcare system in Gaza with hospitals lacking funding, medications, equipment and supplies. With closely packed settlements devoid of any prospect of physical distancing, frail healthcare systems and lack of basic humanitarian access, the COVID-19 virus has been ravaging the area and is massively affecting Palestine’s children. As of April 2020, over 17% of the population with COVID-19 in Gaza and West Bank were children.
  2. Education: According to a UNICEF report, as of 2018, nearly 25% of boys and 7% of girls in Palestine had to drop out of school by the age of 15. With an inflating economy, numerous job losses and an increasing number of parents unable to afford expenses related to education and transportation, these numbers may be higher by the end of 2020. The closing down of schools and transition to remote learning has had a deep impact on the education of children in Palestine. Data by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested that around 1.43 million children in Palestine were required to learn remotely, while 360,000 children lacked access to the internet.
  3. The Detainment of Children: Israel has detained a large number of Palestinian children. According to the U.N. Human Rights Office in the occupied Palestinian territory, 194 children were facing detention as of March 2020. Children in detention do not only face a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, but they also experience torture and violence. A large number of children have also received convictions without committing any offense. The U.N. has called for the immediate release of Palestinian children in Israel, expressing valid concerns over the status and condition of detained children at a time when Israel has put a hold on legal proceedings and has suspended visits to prisons. With no foreseeable help, several Palestinian children are still in detention centers.
  4. Electricity and Water: Living conditions have degraded further due to the recent decision of the Government of Israel to block the fuel necessary for the operation of the only power plant in Gaza. Electricity supply, water treatment and sewage facilities in Gaza were heavily dependent on the power plant in Gaza. However, the lack of fuel has severely impacted health facilities, electricity supply and access to clean water to children in Gaza. Families in Gaza are struggling to thrive on reminiscent fuel resources, and are able to access electricity for only three hours in a day. This has also had a major impact on hospitals and healthcare systems as a lack of electricity is challenging their effectiveness. The region may soon run out of clean water, leaving children devoid of water to drink or wash hands with.
  5. Solutions: Amidst this double crisis lingering upon the children of Palestine, agencies of the United Nations including UNICEF, the United Nations Relief Works Agency and World Health Organization (WHO) have been working intensively to provide relief to children and eradicate child poverty in Palestine. UNICEF and the Government of Palestine have issued recommendation-based solutions in order to ensure the rights of children during the pandemic while the UNRWA continues to provide aid to displaced Palestinian children. WHO has also come up with a response strategy through coordination of the various U.N. agencies and NGOs in order to combat violence and poverty among children, food insecurity, fragile health care systems and more. However, these organizations lack the funds to operate at their full capacity.

In the face of the current pandemic, child poverty in Palestine may spike at a rapid rate, which could result in a setback of a whole generation. Children in Palestine need the immediate and urgent attention of the world community so that another generation does not have to live with poverty, malnutrition and underdevelopment with immensely poor living conditions.

– Prathit Singh
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in PalestinePalestine, like many territories in conflict, engages in an ongoing struggle to secure the civil rights of its people. Women’s rights in Palestine is a particularly pressing issue, with women making up one of the state’s most vulnerable populations.

What is Causing the Problem?

The Daily Sabah published a telling article by Najla M. Shahwan that discussed the major issues at hand. Shahwan outlined two of the major reasons why women’s rights are deprioritized in Palestine: “the Israeli occupation and internal patriarchal control.” These two causes, amongst others, are responsible for an unsteady landscape in which to protect the rights of Palestinian women and address their specific vulnerabilities. For example, areas that compromise women’s rights in Palestine are the agricultural sector, land ownership and the domestic sphere.

Israeli Arrest and Human Rights

The circumstances surrounding Palestine have always lent themselves to protest and tension between the Israeli military and Palestinians. Many Palestinian women see the devastating effects of a lack of access to basic resources like food and clean water. The armed conflict in civilian spaces also severely impacts them. This has led to various forms of dissent including protest and clashes with Israeli law enforcement. Unfortunately, Palestinian women that do get arrested and jailed in Israel “suffer unbearable living conditions in Israeli prisons, deprived entirely of basic human rights, including the right to privacy and the right to education,” according to the Daily Sabah.

Gender in Agriculture, Land Ownership and Recognition

Another example of a gendered issue in Palestine is land ownership as it regards agriculture and food security. Work and workers’ agency are both historically intersectional issues but have always included the subjugation of women. In Palestine, the UN reports that “although women contribute actively to the agricultural sector, less than 5 per cent actually own agricultural property.” This is compounded by the fact that, according to the National Cross-Sectoral Gender Strategy for 2014-2016, “the prominent role that women play in the agricultural sector is largely unrecognized.”

Violence Against Women

Violence against women and domestic abuse are of particular concern to Palestinian women. Palestinian women have advocated for protective laws and cultural shifts in the treatment of victims for a number of years. The problems facing Palestinian women are complicated by the regional division between Gaza and the West Bank, but both areas share goals for the protection of survivors.

Violence on Two Fronts

One of the primary trackers of abuses of women’s rights in Palestine is the United Nations. The UN works with its various commissions, including the refugee commission and the UNRWA, to collect data and shed light on these human rights abuses. The UN reports describe the issue of violence against women as a multifaceted issue. Both the Israeli military and internal domestic abuse are the major perpetrators of violence against Palestinian women. Women of all ages can be exposed to violence, but younger women (ages 25-29) are the group most vulnerable to violence and abuse.

In a 2011 UN report the following statistics illuminated the scope of this threat:

  • Just under 40% of married Palestinian women are “subject to some kind of violence from their husbands.”
  • In Gaza, the number of domestic abuse cases within marriages jumps to around 50%.
  • Around 23% of women experienced violence while at work.

The Legal Side

Legal precedent is essential for the advancement of women’s rights. Currently, in Palestine, there is “no comprehensive domestic violence law.” Palestinian women’s advocates and organizations have been pushing for these types of legal protections, as well as family law protections, for over ten years, with little success.

Human Rights Watch reporter Rothna Begum explains that the type of law for which Palestinian women have been advocating for upwards of 10 years would accomplish 3 things:

  1. Train law enforcement on how to identify signs of domestic abuse.
  2. Secure proper training for investigations.
  3. Change social norms to make reporting accepted and protect reporters.

Another key element of women’s protection law to note is the presence of a victim’s “formal complaint.” Begum explains the importance of ensuring that the investigation is not contingent on a victim’s complaint by pointing to the following scenario: what if a woman does not voice a complaint? By ensuring that the investigation is based on evidence and not a complaint allows “prosecutors to pursue a criminal case in the absence of a formal complaint from the victim if they have evidence of abuse, which is critical as otherwise abusers or their families can pressure victims not to start or proceed with a complaint.”

Women in Palestine should have the platform to advocate for the equality and protections that they deserve. It is time to recognize women’s rights in Palestine. The most pressing issue is the establishment of women’s protection laws to ensure a basis for legal protection and a secure system for survivors. Geographical factors complicate the organizational abilities of this movement. However, with today’s networking abilities the movement will only continue to grow in size and in unity.

Kiahna Stephens
Photo: Flickr

Improving Water Supply in Palestine
Water is an extremely important resource in Palestine; yet, its inhabitants struggle to obtain adequate amounts of it to survive. When Palestine and Israel signed the Oslo Accords, Palestinians were to receive a certain degree of water access. However, the population of Palestine has doubled since the Oslo Accords came into play. Despite its growing population, Palestine retains the same amount of water access as in 1995. This is troublesome, considering the Oslo Accords’ purpose was to guarantee Palestinians’ water supply would increase to about 200 million cubic meters by 2000. The current amount of water access the Palestinian people have is simply insufficient. In the face of this dire situation, various international organizations are working on improving the water supply in Palestine.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

One organization that has assisted Palestinians for some time now is the international development agency, USAID. Since 1994, the group has been committed to improving Palestinian infrastructure. One of the agency’s key successes in improving water resources in Palestine was the upgrading of water distribution networks. This resulted in access to clean water for about 310,000 people as of 2014.

Since 1994, USAID has drilled or refurbished 17 wells and installed 900 kilometers of water pipelines. In addition to helping residents meet basic human needs, USAID initiatives have improved the state’s economy. In total, the organization’s accessibility efforts have provided 1,300,000 days of employment for Palestinians.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

The United Nations Development Programme has also been improving the water supply in Palestine. One example of the program’s support is in the Palestinian city of Rafah. Here, only 7% of water is utilized for domestic use as defined by the World Health Organization. Fortunately, the UNDP aided these Palestinians by building a 3000-cubic-meter water tank. This water tank has raised the water supply for about 50% of the city’s population. To date, the UNDP has conducted 200 other projects aimed at improving water supply in Palestine.

The UNDP has also initiated its Emergency Water Supply and Rehabilitation Programme. Many of the ongoing improvements have helped people in Rafah. Moreover, the Tel Al Sultan area, near Rafah, has seen boosts in its water supply as well. For example, 75,000 people living in the area have access to a reliable water supply for about 12 hours per day. This stands in stark contrast to previous statistics of half that amount, provided every three days. Another city the Emergency Water Supply and Rehabilitation Programme reaches is Beit Hanoun. About 70,000 Palestinians in this area now have a reliable source of water due to the implementation of two water tanks. Both tanks fairly distribute water from wells throughout the city. Finally, the UNDP has installed 10,000 meters of a new and improved water network that will prevent pipeline contamination.

Hope Flows

While Palestinians still struggle to obtain the water resources that they need, they have received crucial assistance from international organizations like USAID and UNDP. As Palestine continues receiving this beneficial assistance and reaps the subsequent health and economic benefits, there is hope that this state will soon provide clean water to all of its inhabitants.

– Jacob Lee
Photo: Flikr

UNRWA
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was specifically created to help Palestinian refugees after the 1948 Israeli-Arab war. The Palestinian refugee problem has only grown since its formation, so the U.N. has allowed the agency to continue operating.

Palestinian refugees are unique. Every person who was a resident or a resident’s descendant of what is now Israel all have a legal designation as ‘refugees.’ UNRWA now serves four generations of Palestinian refugees, having grown from serving 750,000 to 5.6 million.

The United States Pulls Funding

The United States pulled its funding from UNRWA in 2018. President Trump cited the reason behind the defunding as the agency’s incompetency. The United States had previously been contributing about $355,000 million of UNWRA’s budget.

The United States’ decision affected refugees who rely on UNRWA’s aid for education, health care, protection and basic human needs like food security. In 2017, reports determined that 39% of Palestinian refugees lived in poverty, and very little effort has occurred to assimilate Palestinians into host communities.

Palestine, Israel and the international community, in general, see the United States’ choice as an effort to delegitimize UNRWA and the 5.6 billion Palestinian refugees it serves. Revoking these generations of Palestinians’ refugee status would take away their right to return to their homeland.

Aftermath of Funding Removal

In 2020, the U.N. extended UNRWA’s mandate to the year 2023. However, UNRWA is still struggling financially. Not only did it appeal to the international community to donate a minimum of $1.4 billion for the yearly budget, but it requested another $14 million for COVID-19 emergency aid.

The UNRWA reported that it can only sustain operations until May 2020 with the added health crisis that COVID-19 brought on. It has only raised one-third of its budget. UNRWA’s director stated that the UNRWA must run on a “month to month basis” enduring the biggest financial instability since its creation.

Pleas for Help

The United States made the suggestion to transition the UNRWA’s responsibilities into the hands of the Arab countries that host Palestinian refugees. However, these nations are struggling to fill their own funding gap. Arab countries are suffering from high poverty rates and an influx of refugees from the ongoing conflict in Syria.

UNRWA has also sought the help of NGOs, such as Islamic Relief USA, to fill the funding gap. This is a faith-based organization that works to raise funds and mobilize volunteers for a range of initiatives including UNRWA. It has been helping Palestinian refugees since 1994. Islamic Relief USA has served 1,077,000 people from 2017 to 2019.

The United States government might have cut off funding to UNRWA as a result of flaws within the agency. It might have hoped to delegitimize the Palestinian right of return. Either way, Palestine’s impoverished people need UNRWA’s support. If UNRWA is not successful in gaining new donors, they will lose their access to education, health care and other necessary securities that are human rights.

Olivia Welsh
Photo: Flickr

peace in palestine
The current issue between Israel and Palestine is a critical conflict as Palestinians face possible annexation from regions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, affecting 2.1 to 3 million Palestinians. The political strife has been off and on for approximately 100 years as the possibility of annexation becomes a reality. However, the questions of education, healthcare and human rights become prevalent when considering Palestine and its people. Here’s what you need to know about the problem with peace in Palestine.

The Conflict

Palestine and Isreal’s conflict of political power stems from the want for the same land and the power over it. With Isreal already in control of 60% of the West Bank and looking to control upwards of 30% more, Palestinians are worried about their homes and lives as they could force individuals to leave as a result. For many Palestinians, the overall result of the annex is hard to determine, but United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights leader Michelle Bachelet states, “shockwaves of the annexation will last for decades.” As annexation is illegal in terms of international law and is a violation of human rights, the result of backlash is expected.

In 2019, Isreal destroyed hundreds of properties in the West Bank for a lack of approved permits, many of which were owned by Palestinians who had built homes without proper licenses. Although they’ve built homes without authorization, Palestinians may only get construction approved by the Israelis. More often than not, they are denied.

The destruction of these areas can be detrimental to many individuals and any future of peace in Palestine. Palestinian refugees are offered services from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to cater to basic needs such as education, healthcare, shelter and more. The agency defines Palestinian refugees as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.”

Impact on Education

As a result of violence, many are concerned about the safety of children, educational systems and peace in Palestine. Threats of destruction complicate the route to school as students or teachers may be stopped at security checkpoints, and past violence has occurred by Israeli forces. An estimated 19,000 children were involved in the 111 different educational inference cases in the West Bank documented by the UN in 2018.

In 2018, the UNRWA endured a sizeable financial burden as a result of the American government’s decision to decrease the budget for that year. This was the most significant budget cut in history for the agency, resulting in a loss of $300 million for the year. For many, school is supposed to represent a safe and comfortable environment. As a result of the new budget, children and families worried they would not be able to return to school. This led to the UNRWA launching the Dignity is Priceless campaign, a global fundraising campaign advocating for student’s educational and health needs. The campaign’s purpose was to ensure that there would be enough funding and support to reopen the doors. It led the way for other organizations to support education funding.

Campaigns for Aid

Many organizations are standing in support of peace in Palestine, looking to help during this significant humanitarian crisis. UNICEF is working to make an impact in these communities that now lack necessities like drinking water and unsafe access to education. UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children 2020 has accepted $13.7 million in funding, improving access to water for over 30,000 persons and providing water tanks to over 4,100 households. By the end of 2019, they continued to support Palestine’s education system assessing that 6,200 children safely accessed school, and 90,000 students could participate in summer activities.

For many children in Palestine, education is a want, not a given opportunity. The Rights to Education (Right2Edu) campaign strives to bring awareness to the importance of education for Palestinian children and to the hardship’s educational systems face. At the same time, there is a struggle for peace in Palestine. Right2Edu began assisting students and faculty who would be subjected to arrests of the Israeli troops and provides legal assistance to those who may have experienced an educational interference on their way to or from school. The Rights to Education’s primary mission is to pursue the human right of education for all.

The struggle for peace between the two states continues to be an uphill battle. With an emphasis on the future of children in Palestine, 3 campaigns from NGOs show their support through campaigns and field visits to continue to provide supplies and hope for those in Palestine.

Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Palestine
Palestine, located in Western Asia/the Middle East, consists of Gaza and the West Bank. While facing years of conflict with Israel, Palestine battles increasing poverty and unemployment rates as well as a lack of resources. Below are some programs that UNDP has put into place to help promote poverty eradication in Palestine.

The Context

Palestine has cities with some of the highest population densities and population growth rates while suffering from both limited financial resources and space for efficient growth. Despite the prominence of urban cities with flourishing economies, like Ramallah, Rawabi and Gaza City, Palestine is also centered in a fragile, conflict-afflicted area and this placement has contributed to the increase in poverty. The conflict has weakened government power, caused damage to infrastructure, broken social networks due to forced displacement of families and increased youth unemployment. All of these factors lend themselves to poverty.

The poverty rate in Palestine is 25% and unemployment reached about 29% across the board. For youth ages 15–24, however, unemployment reached 42% in both Gaza and the West Bank, placing Palestine as the country with the eighth-highest youth unemployment rate. This is mostly due to the rapid population growth, the deteriorating economy and the lack of Palestinian students with degrees or vocational training. In addition to these high rates of unemployment, more than 1 million children in Palestine require some form of humanitarian assistance. These conditions have influenced the United Nations to request organizations such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to implement programs centered around innovative ways to reduce and potentially eradicate poverty in Palestine through economic empowerment.

UNDP’s Successful Initiatives

Among these programs is the Deprived Families Economic Empowerment Programme (DEEP). Emerging in 2006, DEEP aims to create interventions that target families who have enough community connections to flourish, through small businesses. This program has helped more than 23,756 households and is working on developing new strategic approaches for economic empowerment such as “community mobilization” and targeting youth employment and group projects. DEEP generated 9,560 family businesses and 23,000 paid and long-term jobs. This newly generated income supports 215,000 people, many of whom are children. Most importantly, this program helped 79% of these families close the poverty gap by more than 50%.

Another successful approach to reducing poverty in Palestine is through the Integrated Agricultural and Rural Development Programme which emerged in 2014. This initiative promotes agricultural production for consumption and seeks to reform the existing infrastructure. The program combats the lack of resources and high unemployment rate by constructing agricultural roads, water storage units, planting trees and installing electricity. All of these activities generate employment and supply the locals with fresh foods such as olives and other fruit. This program also aims to make at least 4,000 hectares of agricultural land suitable for production and support farmers with cultivating and utilizing an additional 7,000 hectares.

The Three-pillar Strategy Against COVID-19

In recent months, the UNDP of Palestine has also implemented programs to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the restricted access to resources, the pre-existing high levels of unemployment and poverty and the decades of political aggression and occupation — the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a harder toll. However, the UNDP is coordinating with the Ministry of Health to bring forth a proper response to the crisis. This response is framed by a three-pillar strategy that includes increasing healthcare staff, disinfecting facilities, supporting livelihoods, promoting businesses and aiding in government responses that fight misinformation and foster discussion through media outlets. All of these efforts aid in ensuring economic empowerment while responding to the crisis.

A Hopeful Outlook

The poverty and unemployment rates in Palestine remain high as political tensions rise. However, the programs that UNDP has actively put into effect contribute to the progression of the economy and the eradication of poverty in Palestine. Through UNDP’s tremendous efforts alongside the humanitarian assistance that various organizations like UNICEF and UNRWA provide, Palestine should be able to decrease its poverty and unemployment rates and restore its economy.

Nada Abuasi
Photo: Flickr