Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gaza and Israel: Some background and current information

After digging online, I found some interesting statistics from the CIA's World Factbook regarding the conditions folks have been living under in Gaza.

  • Size: 360 square miles: roughly twice the size of Washington D.C.
  • Poulation: 1,500,000
  • 0-14 years: 44.7% (male 343,988/female 325,856)
    15-64 years: 52.7% (male 403,855/female 386,681)
    65 years and over: 2.7% (male 16,196/female 23,626) (2008 est.)
  • Official poverty rate: 51.8%
  • Official Deep Poverty rate: 35%
These poverty rates reflect actual consumption. If remittances and food aid are excluded and poverty is based only on household income, the poverty rate in Gaza would soar to 79.4% and the Deep Poverty rates would increase to 69.9%. This illustrates the high levels of aid dependency in the West Bank and Gaza, especially when you take into account the fact that the majority of the income of government employees is financed with foreign aid.

Generally small family businesses that produce textiles, soap, olive-wood carvings, and mother-of-pearl souvenirs; the Israelis had established some small-scale modern industries in an industrial center, but operations ceased prior to Israel's evacuation of Gaza Strip settlements.

The Closure of the Gaza Strip: Key Observations a bit of background

Since June 2007, in response to the Hamas take over of the Gaza Strip and the on-going and indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel, the Government of Israel (GoI) has increased restrictions on access of goods and people to and from Gaza. These have severe consequences for the day-to-day life of the 1.48 million Gazans.

Since then:
  • More Gazans than ever need food and direct assistance
  • Fuel shortages have threatened essential services and water supply
  • Life-saving treatments are not available in Gaza’s hospitals
  • 17 per cent of patients with referrals were refused exit for treatment in Israel, East Jerusalem or overseas
  • The on-going isolation of Gaza threatens the local economy
  • Baby milk, medicines, and cooking oil are increasingly scarce
  • Hundreds of businesses have gone bankrupt due to ban on imports/exports
  • Thousands of labourers have lost their jobs due to the collapse of the building industry
  • Building projects worth US$370 million are on hold indefinitely

Lack of Food
No goods other than basic foods and medicines are being allowed into the Gaza Strip and supplies of many stocks that are not considered absolutely essential are fast running out. World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that only approximately 41% of humanitarian and commercial food import needs were met between 1 October and 4 November 2007 (statistics for more recent times are less stable). Basic items including wheat grain, vegetable oil, dairy products and baby milk are in extremely short supply.

Prices of many items have increased sharply since July 2007 as a result of shortages, although local fruit and vegetable prices have dropped dramatically due to the export freeze and the ‘dumping’ of export items by producers onto the local markets.

Poverty, unemployment and lack of cash flow have put many prices – even those for local fruit and vegetables which have decreased - out of the reach of a large section of the population. According to WFP, of the 62% of households who stated a drop in spending, 93.5% cut back on food buying overall, leading to a 98% reduction in the purchase of meat and an 86% fall in the purchase of dairy products.

Robin Lodge, spokesman for WFP stated yesterday: "There is very little food commercially available," he said. "Very few stores have any food. There is a widespread shortage of cash so commercial activities have virtually ground to a halt. As far as the bakeries are concerned, they are no longer getting supplied with flour from the mills because the mills have run out of wheat. At present, the latest idea is that only 14 out of 47 bakeries in Gaza are operating and they are operating at very reduced capacity. We are trying to help out by delivering flour to bakeries."

Incomes Down, Unemployment Up
Unemployment is above 50% in the Gaza Strip. Joblessness in the Gaza Strip stood at 37.6 % in the third quarter of 2007, compared to 32.3 % in the second quarter and overall unemployment is 12% higher in the Gaza Strip than in the West Bank.

Latest figures show poverty in the Gaza Strip has already reached unprecedented levels with around eight out of ten households living below the poverty line of 2,300 NIS (US$594) per household per month (a sharp rise compared to the 2005’s rate of 63.1%). Of these, 66.7%of Gazan households are living in deep poverty, i.e. on less than 1,837 NIS or US$474 per month. Poverty levels are 30% higher in the Gaza Strip than the West Bank.

As a consequence, more Gazans than ever are almost entirely dependent on food aid and direct assistance: 80% of Gazan families currently receive humanitarian aid (compared to 63% in 2006).

Despite the 3 hour cease fire, little to no improvement could be made in such a short window of time. The human impact of this crisis is relatively absent from our news. Here's one person's account of what is going on from a daily diary entry.

More to come. The bias toward blind support of Israel must be balanced by understanding the plight of the Gazan people (and West Bank which is another issue altogether). The world is paying attention to how our media is covering this story. And our media is failing--miserably.


willpen January 8, 2009 at 7:33 PM  

Middle Ground! It is so hard to believe that it cannot be found. This is such a sad story and there are never winners only losers.

Looking forward to more about this.

skyewriter January 8, 2009 at 8:16 PM  

Resentment and hatred run deep in that part of our World. I agree, there will never be a winner in these conflicts. Only more losers.

And sadly, most of all--those losers are everyday folks like you and me, whose governments are committing terrible atrocities in their names.

We cannot as people of conscience let this pass without our notice, our effort to change the outcomes, our willingness to get involved.

The coverage by our press is despicable. Instead of talking about real people and real lives, they choose to focus on that idiot Palin and the senate appointment in IL. I think, too, it's a symptom of the fact that a lot of our newspeople aren't really that well read about this issue--so engrossed they are in the Amero-centric position.

There's bigger fish to fry in my book.

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