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.
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