Many of the poor people in Gaza live in a single room with kitchen, bedroom and wardrobe together
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When Khaled al-Najjar, 32 years, received a text message saying that he received a purchase voucher from a charity organization in northern Gaza Strip, he was happier than he had been in a long time.
Najjar, who supports a family of four, recalls how he "flew away from joy" when he received the message. On the eve of last Ramadan, he walked more than three kilometers from his home in Shati’ camp West Gaza City to reach the “medicine to life”.
However, the joy did not last as he reported that ”When I received the 'voucher’ I had to sell part of the content to get money for the return fare”. Moreover, since then he has not received any further help, while fatigue has exhausted his body from searching for a job. The young man, who works in construction, complains that he is unemployed due to the tightened Israeli siege and the resulting diminished construction sector. In recent months, his situation has even worsened and he is unable to meet the needs of his three children, especially the expensive medical care for his chronically ill child is consuming a lot of his money. Najjar is one of many unemployed in Gaza Strip who are unable to provide a living for themselves or their families due to the continuous 12 years Israeli blockade.
Unemployment and Poverty
The financial measures taken by the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA) in April last year against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip have worsened the situation. These measures included halving the salaries of PA employees in Gaza, as well as sending thousands of them to compulsory retirement.
The PA justifies its actions as necessary to force Hamas to abandon the governance of the Gaza Strip and hand it over to the national consensus government. Hamas, on the other side, describes these measures as punitive.
On October 17th, the world annually celebrates the international day for the “Eradication of Poverty”, a day initiated by the United Nations (UN) to raise awareness on the issue of poverty. Even before this year's event, international reports had been published on the Gaza Strip's economy being "in the process of collapse." According to the World Bank report released in the last quarter of September, the economic situation in Gaza Strip is in state of calamity due to the ten-year siege, recent liquidity shortages and aid inflows that are no longer sufficient to stimulate growth. It further states that the rate of people living below the poverty line has increased by more than 14% between 2011 and 2018, and today is at an alarming 53%.
As a result, at Gaza's main streets, many vendors are children and beggars whose parents force them to beg to add some shekels to their family’s income as some of them told the magazine.
Misery beyond Misery
Taha Samaan, 35, who lives in a small room of a residential building in the eastern neighborhood of Gaza City, was forced to sell part of his house - including his bedroom - to support his five children, three of whom still go to primary school.
Although he lives in a flat that he describes as a "tomb" where the sun does not enter and light is mostly not available because of electricity power cuts, he says that he is unable for the seventh month in a row to pay the rent of 300 NIS.
Samaan works as a taxi driver who barely gets 20 shekels a day and furthermore has to share his earnings with the car owner. He points out that people no longer ride taxis and prefer to walk due to increasing poverty, except for compelling circumstances.
As a result, he says that for almost a year he has been "barely" managing his family's needs of food and drink, and often sends his wife to her family as he can only afford to feed his children.
He does not know whether he is going to spend his upcoming nights in a "tent on the beach or not", fearing that the owner of the building will ask him to leave his room due to the accumulation of debt.
Gaza is on the Edge of a Disaster
According to the World Bank report, one out of two people in Gaza Strip suffers from poverty, and the unemployment rate among the population of Gaza Strip is 53% for the total labor force and more than 70% among youth.
The report pointed out that the economy in Gaza is collapsing, with a growth rate reaching minus 6% in the first quarter of 2018 and indicators still predict further deterioration.
The economist Taysir Muheisen confirmed the validity of the repeated reports on the unprecedented difficult humanitarian situation and stresses that Gaza is on the edge of a disaster by all standards. Thus, he calls for immediate and rapid intervention to remedy the situation.
He points out that the indicators of sudden death and increased occurrence of cancer signify a deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza. He further notes that the population overcrowding, poor infrastructure, water salinity and sewage flow to the sea, all take not only its toll on the environment but exacerbate poverty related to human capacity and health. Moreover, he reports that the percentage of people living on foreign aid has become very high, and many families had already been forced to sell the belongings of their homes to provide for their children and are now again unable to afford the main meals of the day.
He sees the situation in Gaza as a result of the political differences between Gaza’s Hamas and Fatah’s PA, and criticizes that it is the civil society who has to pay the price.
He stressed that although the crisis in Gaza is humanitarian, its solution is primarily political. Needed is both a lift of the Israeli siege and an end of the political differences between Fatah and Hamas. He urged the Palestinian Authority to end cutting salaries, and allowing the provision of medicines and treatments abroad. He also called on the authorities in Gaza to stop collecting taxes and fees from people.
He ends with a bleak picture of Gaza in the near future if the Palestinian national unity is not achieved saying” If the situation continues as it is, Gaza will see worse days than it does now.”
Translated by: Ghadeer Kamal Zaineh
Edited by: Clara Geiger