Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

The world’s eyes are focused on the rockets being fired between Hamas and Israel. This conflict, which was recently escalated after three Israeli teens were found dead in the West Bank, has claimed the lives of 260 Palestinians. To understand the full scope of suffering that the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are undergoing, we must focus on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is largely defined by a deteriorating economy that cannot keep up with the rate of population growth. As a result, more and more people in Gaza do not have proper access to essential services for their livelihood. This causes extreme conditions to persist in the Gaza Strip, where 38 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and 45 percent are unemployed.

A United Nations report, called The Palmer Report, concluded that the Blockade of the Gaza Strip is the main cause of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The Blockade is a full land, sea and air blockade on the Gaza strip issued by Israel and Egypt since 2007. This puts a severe limit on the movement of people and goods in and out of the Gaza Strip, preventing the normal functioning of the economy in Gaza.

Israel argues that the implementation of the Blockade is to prevent weapons and military equipment from reaching Gaza and going into Hamas’ hands. Although this Blockade may have successfully prevented military weapons from reaching Hamas, it has also prevented essential goods from reaching the people of Gaza. Claims that Israel’s main motivation in upholding the Blockade is for security reasons have been challenged by cables obtained by Wikileaks. One of the cables stated that in 2008, Israel told U.S. officials “they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse.” Due to the economic effects imposed by The Blockade on Gaza, its legality has been challenged by many prominent public figures and organizations, such as U.N. envoy Desmond Tutu, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Human Rights Council head Navi Pillay.

As the Wikileaks cable demonstrated, economic punishment is precisely what is happening in Gaza due to the Blockade. Due to the lack of exports and imports, 54 percent of households in Gaza face food insecurity. The Blockade has stopped the entrance of necessary construction material and equipment, preventing the construction of homes that have been destroyed by rocket fire. More generally, the prevention of movement of goods in Gaza has generated poor services and infrastructure that are vital to those living in the Gaza Strip. Half of the population of the Gaza Strip does not have access to water supply due to the lack of proper repairs for a crumbling infrastructure.

Oxfam International and The United Nations Relief and Works Agency have helped thousands of Palestinians by using aid to provide important services and supplies. The importance of these relief agencies is highlighted by the fact that 75 percent of households in the Gaza Strip receive outside aid.

Due to the lack of access to essential services, a crippled economy and constant bombardment, the Gaza Strip is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis and the situation is only getting worse with escalating conflict and violence.

– Lucas Vazquez

Sources: OXFAM, Reuters
Photo: PR Watch