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Israel Poverty Rates
Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not only deter violent radicalism and terrorism but also reduce Israel’s poverty rates by opening the door to prosperity and human rights for all citizens. Israel is densely populated with 8.5 million people, one-fifth of whom are Arab. While 14% of Jewish Israelis are poor, 55% of Arabs live below the poverty line.

The divide over Gaza is one of many issues plaguing the peace process in Israel. A 2008 airstrike on Gaza damaged many houses and buildings, displacing thousands of Palestinian families. Mostly populated by Palestinians, Gaza is currently under Israeli blockade, cutting off necessities such as electricity, food and medicine.

On average, Arabs make half of what Jewish workers make and are less likely to hold a job. The limited access to power and electricity in Gaza leaves a majority of the 600,000 families unemployed and hungry. Unemployment rates are at an all-time low in Israel. Yet, 70% of those working earn less than average salaries. On the bright side, Israel established a joint initiative with large companies to hire more Israeli-Arabs in 2016, opening better career opportunities to 500 Arabs.

Israel’s poverty rates are affecting future generations. One in three children lives below the poverty line, causing lifelong consequences to health, brain development, nutrition and educational attainment. While school years have increased over time, the quality of education is still low because teachers earn low wages.

So far, American-mediated efforts to help resolve the conflict failed because Israel continues expanding West Bank settlements, Palestinians remain politically divided, and the path to constructive dialogue between Israeli-Arabs and Israeli-Jews is unclear.

The lack of peace is increasing Israel’s poverty rates and an unstable economic situation in West Bank and Gaza. World Bank Country Director for West Bank and Gaza Marina Wes says that Gaza stands “on the verge of a human catastrophe.” All sides need to focus on relief combined with a commitment to financial support from the international community to bring about real changes.

Jennifer Mcallister

Photo: Flickr

Palestine Poverty Rate
Israeli blockades, land restrictions and a drop in foreign aid have ensured that Palestine’s poverty rate remains high, according to reports from the U.N. and the World Bank. However, new Israeli policies give Palestine some hope.

Palestine’s poverty rate is at 25%, and, among the youth, it is at 56%, which is the highest youth poverty rate in the world. Unemployment is at 40%, and last year 1,100 people were left homeless. While the population has increased steadily, the economy has not improved much. Over the last decade, the GDP growth rate has not exceeded 1.44%, but the population rose by 38.4%. Additionally, the business sector has lost between 50 and 60% of their pre-2014 assets, production, exports and employment.

Israeli policy is primarily responsible for Palestine’s poverty rate. Israel has blockaded the Gaza region for the 11th year in a row.  The Israeli government has also declared a third of the arable land in the area and half of Gaza’s fishing waters to be high-risk no-go zones. Additionally, last year Israel destroyed 780 Palestinian homes.

Palestine has not received much of the foreign aid that was pledged to it. The U.S. pledged $3.5 billion in 2014 but is far behind its aid plan, as 51% of the money has been disbursed. The U.S. drew up a recovery plan, but only 17% of the $3.9 billion of the recovery plan’s funds have been allocated to financial needs in the area. Moreover, 1.6 million tons of construction materials, which is only seven percent of what is necessary, was brought to Gaza since the 2014 summer war.

Israel has taken steps to better relations in the region. The Israeli government is instituting a plan to rebuild and reconstruct Palestine to combat Palestine’s poverty rate. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign affairs reported that 100,513 homes have been repaired and that 2,733 have been rebuilt. This plan will hopefully heal the political divide in the region.

While Palestine’s poverty rate remains high, political tensions ensure a stagnant economy and there is little incoming foreign aid, there may be room for a political compromise in the future. The international community remains dedicated to easing the situation in Palestine, ending the Israeli blockade around Gaza and ending land restrictions. With the help of the international community and more support from the Israeli government, Palestine’s poverty rate could drop significantly.

Bruce Edwin Ayres Truax

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Palestine Refugees
The Arab-Israeli conflict has continued for more than 65 years. The absence of a Palestinian state has led to major difficulties in providing aid for their refugees. Palestine refugees differ from other refugee populations in the world and have a unique status as a result. In order to understand the struggle of refugees involved in this conflict, consider these 10 facts about Palestine refugees:

1. One in three refugees is Palestinian.

There are nearly 7.2 million Palestine refugees worldwide. The number of Palestinian refugees is nearly double that of Syrian refugees (3.8 million).

2. There are three main groups of Palestinian refugees.

The largest group is comprised of Palestinians who were displaced in 1948. Another major group are those who were displaced from the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967. The third group refers to internally displaced Palestinians.

Internally displaced refugees include both: Palestinians who remained in areas that later became the state of Israel, and Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip who lost their homes due to demolition, revocation of residency rights or the construction of Israeli settlements.

3. There is a specific U.N. relief organization for Palestine refugees.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) began operations in 1950. All other refugee populations worldwide are protected by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

4. There are specific criteria for qualifying for UNRWA assistance.

The UNRWA provides aid for Palestine refugees who “lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” The other primary groups of refugees do not qualify for aid under the UNRWA mandate.

5. Palestinians are one of the only populations whose descendants also qualify as refugees.

As a result of Palestinian descendants gaining refugee status, there are currently 5 million refugees who qualify for UNRWA services. When the UNRWA began operations, the agency responded to the needs of only 750,000 Palestinian refugees.

6. There are 58 UNRWA recognized Palestine refugee camps.

There are 58 official and six unofficial refugee camps across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

One-third of the registered Palestine refugees live in refugee camps. Camps typically have poor socioeconomic conditions, are extremely overcrowded and lack adequate roads and sewer systems.

7. Palestine refugee camps in Gaza comprise one of the highest population densities in the world.

More than half a million Palestine refugees live in the eight recognized refugee camps in Gaza. The number of refugees in the area continues to rise due to wars and bombings. Over 70 percent of Gaza’s total population are refugees.

8. Jordan has the most Palestinian refugees of any country.

There are over 2 million registered Palestine refugees living in Jordan. The number of refugees living in the Gaza Strip and West Bank combined is fewer than the amount living in Jordan.

9. Palestine refugees are granted citizenship in Jordan.

Jordan is the only host country that has granted Palestinian refugees full citizenship rights. Other host countries have been known to bar Palestinians from basic rights, such as health and educational services.

10. No Palestinian has ever lost their refugee status.

Palestinian refugees have been refused the right to return to their place of origin; Israeli officials have declared that such a right is not legitimate. The number of Palestine refugees has increased by more than six times the amount originally accounted for in 1948. This is a result of Palestinians being able to retain their refugee status.

These 10 facts about Palestine refugees are by no means an exhaustive list, however, it offers insight into the current situation. Palestinians are the largest and longest-standing group of refugees in the world. Palestinian refugees have suffered for over six decades and will continue to suffer until their basic needs and rights are met.

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: Pixabay

Youth in Gaza
The ongoing power struggle between the Israeli government and Hamas has adversely affected youth in Gaza. The situation has been exacerbating since the 2007 Israeli blockade on the Gaza strip. Moreover, youth unemployment rates have risen to a staggering 60 percent, with a nearly 80 percent dependency on foreign aid.

An analysis conducted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) accentuates that the youth in Gaza working between the ages of 10-17 has soared to 9,700. Many are below the legal age of 15, and this figure is presumed to be much more in reality.

With rising food prices and varying degrees of income disparity over the years, the plight of the youth has only intensified. The deficiency in the labor market has made it difficult for people to find work. As a result, young children work for meagre amounts to support their families, without even the basic provision of insurance.

“I have to work to earn extra money – my father is ill, and my mum has no food for us,” exclaims 7-year-old Imad Awadallah.

Humanitarian aid has benefited many young children, but the British government’s recent probe into Palestinian authorities may show a prolonged misuse of this aid.

SOS Children’s Villages has been providing care and early education to young children in Rafah since 1999. Their youth home has also helped young people with basic training to adjust to the challenges that adult life entails.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has also provided outstanding education in Gaza for the past few years. For three years, the El-Wedad Society for Community Rehabilitation has been spearheading the push for children’s rights. They visit families and highlight the vitality of education through seminars and sessions.

It is imperative to ensure mobility and efficiency in the provision of aid. While channeling humanitarian aid, collaboration with the Palestinian government is necessary.

Countries in the region have reached out to those impoverished children. Notably, an envoy from the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization arrived on June 16 with medical supplies. Also, many in Karara will receive help through the Turkish Crescent’s inception of the first aid station.

Moreover, the initiatives organized by Gaza’s Social Affairs Ministry of Labor will enhance a variety of skills, such as sewing and carpentry, which will help make the youth more self- sufficient. Thus, there should be an increased propensity to remain in school–increasing literacy rates are vital to increasing the diversity of the labor market.

The deployment of peacekeepers serves a dual purpose: 1) It is a necessary precaution to ensure the steady flow of aid and 2) it protects vulnerable groups (such as young children) in the more turbulent areas. Aid workers must also be well trained and experienced to safeguard the interests of the children.

Businesses that use exploitation and child labor have the potential to be blacklisted by the U.N., as it is a violation. Potential creditors must also refrain from investing in such businesses.

Considering the revolts in 2014, possible cessation of hostilities between the Hamas and Israeli government is indefinite. However, we can create awareness by supporting NGOs like Save the Children and Islamic Relief USA. Alleviating the harsh situations faced by the youth in Gaza will positively impact all involved.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Education in PalestineWhile issues that adversely affect education are yet to be fully resolved, programs that benefit education in Palestine show promise for creating a positive, lasting impact on the country. Here are five facts about education in Palestine:

  1. Literacy rates in Palestine are extremely high—even when compared to developed countries. According to the most recent data published in 2014, Palestine has a 96.3 percent literacy rate. The UNDP states that this percentage is, “higher than that of the UNDP 2014 HDI ‘high human development’ category average.” With the constant turmoil and poverty within the Gaza Strip and West Bank, these statistics may come as a surprise to many. Ninety-four percent of women in Palestine are literate (compared to 98.4 percent of men). This is a huge improvement from 1995, when less than 80 percent of women could read and write.
  2. In 2013, only 9.4 percent of children did not complete any level of education in Palestine. The UNDP states that dropout rates among schoolchildren have declined significantly in recent years. Data shows the average amount of schooling for Palestinian children is close to nine years.
  3. Poor infrastructure and lack of funding are major barriers to quality education in Palestine. Over 280 schools were damaged in Gaza due to the 51-day conflict between Israel and Palestine in 2014. According to UNICEF, the infrastructure problem has yet to be fully resolved largely due to sanctions on the transport of certain construction materials. In addition to infrastructure damage, overcrowding presents a major challenge to the Palestinian education system. Overcrowded schools impede upon the quality of education that children receive on a daily basis.
  4. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is working to improve education within the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. While the West Bank offers adequate primary education, the UNRWA is working to improve secondary education within the area. In the Gaza Strip, the agency is expanding upon educational programs as well as out-of-school initiatives.
  5. The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund’s “Gaza Educational Initiative” is raising money to support education efforts in the region. Following the 2014 bombings within the West Bank, PCRF started a fund to help provide tutoring and extra education services to affected children. Programs like this and efforts made by the U.N. are helping Palestinian kids achieve higher education despite the unstable state of their home environments.

U.S. foreign aid to Palestine is an incredibly contentious topic in current politics. However, putting past political disagreements for the sake of education is crucial for Palestinian children. Educating younger generations of children can provide hope for less poverty, radicalization and violence within the community.

Saroja Koneru

Photo: Flickr

Palestinian Teacher
A Palestinian teacher who grew up in a refugee camp was awarded a $1 million global teacher prize in recognition of her dedication to helping children who had been exposed to violence.

Hanan Al Hroub accepted the Global Teacher Prize at a ceremony in Dubai on March 13. Pope Francis announced the winner to the crowd through a video conference, saying that teachers are “the builders of peace and unity.”

“I am proud to be a Palestinian female teacher standing on this stage,” she said while accepting the award, according to the BBC.

Hroub grew up witnessing acts of violence in the Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem and later became a teacher after her children became traumatized from being shot at while traveling home from school.

By encouraging play and rewarding positive behaviors, Hroub has facilitated a decline in violent behavior among her students.

“I tell all the teachers, whether they are Palestinian or around the world: ‘Our job is humane, its goals are noble. We must teach our children that our only weapon is knowledge and education,’” Hroub said in an interview with CNN after receiving the award.

In his speech, the Pope praised Hroub’s methods in teaching children to avoid violence, according to BuzzFeed. “A child has the right to play,” he said. “Part of the education is to teach children how to play, because you learn how to be social through the games and you learn the joy of life.”

The Global Teacher Prize is granted annually to teachers that have made outstanding contributions to the profession. The award was created by the Varkley Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to “improve the standards of education for underprivileged children throughout the world.”

A panel of educators, entrepreneurs, public officials, scientists and others are responsible for choosing the winner.

Many celebrities, including actors Salma Hayek and Matthew McConaughey, as well as many politicians including Vice President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair attended the ceremony where Hroub received her award.

“I support the Global Teacher Prize. Those that teach — devoting their talents and time to nurturing the talents of others — deserve to be respected and celebrated,” Kevin Spacey said in a statement on the Global Teacher Prize website.

Violence claims the lives of nearly 1.4 million people across the globe each year, according to the World Health Organization. Formal education can help prevent violence by giving children the opportunity to develop crucial social skills, problem-solving strategies, critical-thinking and communication skills.

“Based on this truth, the role of education starts, the teacher’s responsibility starts also as an educator, an artist, creating an environment and a context that frees children from violence, frees their imagination and embodies it in forms of dialogue, love and beauty,” Hroub said.

Lauren Lewis

 

typhoid_outbreak
The United Nations (U.N.) is calling for access to Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp in the outskirts of Damascus, due to the increasing evidence of a typhoid outbreak. As of Sept. 20, a total of 90 cases has been reported.

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) discovered the outbreak in August among Palestinian refugees outside Syria’s capital after conducting more than 500 medical exams.

The agency was able to gain access to one of the areas affected and established a mobile health point, which provides limited health care, water, sanitation and hygiene supplies, according to a UNRWA spokesperson.

Before the Syrian war began in 2011, there were 160,000 Palestinians in the Yarmouk camp, many of which were employed.

In late March of 2015 when the Islamic State entered the camp, there were 18,000 refugees. Since then, several thousand have fled and the U.N. has no access to the camp. ISIL left days later, but they still have a heavy presence on the al-Nursa Front.

Access has been blocked by the government as a result of clashes with rebels in December 2012. In addition, the government controls the entrance to the camp and sets limits on food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies that enter, claims the Jafra Foundation.

The organization adds that people are trapped inside with very little resources and estimates that there are about 5,000 to 8,000 people left within Yarmouk.

Other affected areas of the typhoid outbreak are Yalda, Babila and Beit Saham.

UNRWA’s $15 million Syria Crisis Program has only gotten 30.8 percent of the fund it needs for this year. The current situation is so dire that 95 percent of Palestinian refugees depend on UNRWA for their daily need of water, food and health care.

Additional help in priority intervention includes cash assistance, which can help up to 470,000 Palestinian refugees. There is still additional funding needed for critical non-food items such as blankets, mattresses and hygiene kits.

Typhoid is a life-threatening illness caused by bacteria in Salmonella typhi and spread by eating contaminated food and drinking contaminated water, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The disease can be treated with antibiotics but can be fatal in some cases. UNRWA is administering antibiotics, giving out water purifying tablets and educating the population.

Paula Acevedo

Sources: Aljazeera, Associated Press, U.N. News Centre
Photo: Wikimedia

refugee_children
When we reminisce about our childhood afternoons spent in school, they usually include fond memories immersed in boundless creativity and new learning experiences.

Although we likely did not realize it at the time, these crucial hours of education contributed to our empowerment to become smart and driven citizens within our communities.

Imagine what missing just a year of schooling would mean for a child.

This year, 500,000 Palestinian refugee children will start school on time due to last-minute donations which secured funding for the upcoming school year.

“There had been warnings that the school year in 685 UN-run schools would be delayed for months because the agency was short of $101 million to fund the 2015-16 academic year. Protests against the potential move were held by Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip and by staff at the agency’s headquarters in Amman,” states an article by A World at School.

The Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl of the United Nations Work and Relief Agency (UNRWA) an agency for Palestinian refugees, announced that $80 million had come in allowing students to return to school within the countries of Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

According to A World at School, for students, this means schools will reopen in Palestine on August 24, in Jordan on September 1, in Lebanon on September 7 and in Syria on September 13.

The UNRWA recognizes the importance of education and was disheartened by the potential risk of schools not opening due to a funding shortfall. With the danger of millions of children being robbed of their education in a time of great conflict caused by war zones and migration, the ability of so many children to stay in school is a tremendous achievement.

Currently, the UNRWA describes themselves as a human development and humanitarian service, which “encompass primary and vocational education, primary health care, relief and social services, infrastructure and camp improvement, microfinance and emergency response, including in situations of armed conflict.”

Today, the UNRWA has contributed to 479, 519 student’s educations, awarded 344,493 loans to those in financial need and supported 301,015 refugees through the Social Safety Net.

It is only through the support and patronage of others that schools have the hope of thriving and remaining open for students.

Nikki Schaffer

Sources: UNRWA, A World at School
Photo: Pixabay

Child's Cup Full Fights Poverty In Palestine - TBP

One in every two Palestinians is classified as poor. The loss of significant economic resources during the Israeli occupation, including 82% of the nation’s groundwater, has lead to significant damages to the Palestinian economy. The real gross domestic product in Gaza is 10% below its 2005 level, and 66% of the population in the West Bank struggles with food insecurity. In Palestine, and particularly in the West Bank and Gaza, conflict has caused great suffering.

Yet, in the face of suffering, there is hope.

Founded by the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa in 2008, Child’s Cup Full promotes the development of local enterprises in Palestine through the sale and manufacture of children’s toys. These toys are built by refugee women, who are trained and paid through the program. The training and payment of these women promotes the development of marketable skills, along with the creation of networks to further develop local markets.

In addition, proceeds from these sales go toward developing childhood development and education programs in communities reached out to by Child’s Cup Full.

The toys sold by Child’s Cup Full are educational and eco-friendly. In price, they range from a $5 set of building blocks to a $225 Darzeh heal. Each toy, crafted by Palestinian women and supporting both the training of adults and the education of children, holds infinite potential to change lives in Palestine. By promoting education, Child’s Cup Full works with great potential to break the cycle of refugee poverty in the West Bank.

Behind it all, Child’s Cup Full has one message: global poverty need not be an endless cycle. By fighting refugee poverty through economic development and education, Child’s Cup Full ends this cycle by empowering victims of global poverty.

Toys from Child’s Cup Full can be ordered at http://childscupfull.org

– Andrew Michaels

Sources: Reuters, Child’s Cup Full, Read Little Muslims, Tulsa World
Photo: Child’s Cup Full

Palestinian Israel Tax Freeze
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to end a tax transfer freeze on the Palestinian Authority (PA). The Israeli government collects and transfers about $125 million each month to the PA, but cut them off last December after the PA was accepted into the International Criminal Court. Israel now plans to release the several months’ worth of revenue that it had previously withheld.

The freeze in tax transfers hit the Palestinian Territories hard. The economy was already in a recession, with unemployment at 25 percent and a budget deficit of 15 percent of GDP. The PA was then forced to cut public sector wages by 40 percent. Tax transfers account for 70 percent of the Palestinian Authority’s revenue and the freeze pushed the region to the brink of collapse.

Palestine’s stock market has contracted by 10 percent since this time last year. The Palestinian Central Bank had warned there was an imminent risk of a major financial crash. Hospitals reported a shortage of medicine and equipment.

The Israeli government cited the humanitarian crisis and the threat of increased instability in the West Bank as its primary reasons for resuming tax transfers. The Palestinian Authority had warned it was unlikely to survive for much longer without tax revenue. Israeli military officials had also warned that the Palestinian Authority was at risk of collapsing and disbanding.

The Israeli military also warned that the freeze was fueling instability and extremism and was a threat to Israel’s national security. Officials had previously recommended that the government end the freeze to prevent the spread of instability in the already unstable region.

This is good news for the West Bank, which has long struggled with high rates of poverty. The resumption of tax revenue will help to alleviate this and lesson the effects of the ongoing economic crisis. But since the Palestinian Authority is set to officially join the ICC on April 1, relations with Israel will remain strained and the threat of a future transfer freeze still remains.

– Matt Lesso

Sources: BBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal
Photo: Wall Street Journal