Precarious Gaza: Instability and Aid Dependence in the Strip
Hazem Balousha 18 November 2015

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development predicted that the Gaza Strip could become “uninhabitable by 2020”. The report said this prognostication was based on the continuation of current economic trends in the Gaza Strip over the next five years.

The war “has effectively eliminated what was left of the middle class, sending almost all of the population into destitution and dependence on international humanitarian aid,” the new report says.

Gaza’s GDP dropped 15 percent last year, and unemployment reached a record high of 44 percent. Seventy-two percent of households are food insecure.

The wars have shattered Gaza’s ability to export and produce for the domestic market and left no time for reconstruction, the report says. It notes that Gaza’s “de-development,” or development in reverse, has been accelerated.

Citing the reliance of Gaza’s 1.9 million inhabitants on coastal aquifers as their main source of freshwater, it adds that 95% of this water is not safe to drink. The report also cites growing food insecurity affecting 72% of households, with half the population of Gaza receiving some food aid.

Mohammed al-Sharif, one of the vendors outside of the UNRWA distribution center said, “A lot of people are selling food as soon as they receive it since they need cash more than food that may be available at home or not urgently needed.”

He said, “We here buy these goods and sell them to those who do not receive aid from UNRWA. We have a high turnout since we sell at prices lower than those in shops. Our goods are imported and their quality is almost equivalent to that of locally manufactured or imported from other countries.”

The unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip, according to the latest statistics issued by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), reached more than 41.6% compared to 16.3% in the West Bank during the first quarter of 2015.

Moreover, a World Bank report indicated that nearly 80% of Gaza’s population receives some kind of social assistance, while nearly 40% of them still fall below the poverty line.

Mohammed al-Bakri, Gaza director for the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, one of the largest organizations operating in the Gaza Strip, pointed out that the reason underlying the local and international organizations’ inclination towards relief work is the current political reality and successive crises suffered by the Strip.

He told ResetDoc “We cannot overlook the current reality. Three wars were waged in about 6 years and the post-war situation requires our fast relief intervention in the absence of the state’s organizations”.

He added, “Our organization’s 2014 budget was nearly $14 million and more than the two-thirds of that amount were spent on relief activities, especially after the recent war. Moreover, the shortage of some raw materials as a result of Israel’s ban on them, and their high prices, limit our ability to carry out development activities.”

“It should be noted that The Cairo Conference on Palestine which happened in the wake of the recent 50-day war in 2014 promised more than $5 billion for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. The largest part of this amount was allocated to development, but the Gaza Strip only benefited from 30% of it.”

The reconstruction process for homes and facilities destroyed last summer has been slow as a result of limited international funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and to the Palestinian government, in addition to Israeli restrictions on the entry of construction materials into the Gaza Strip, which have been in place for several years.

Amjad Shawa, the director of the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO) in Gaza accused the Palestinian government of negligence by failing to consult with NGOs before submitting its national plan for the Cairo Conference on Palestine in 2014.

He said “The successive disasters in the Gaza Strip have piled up and no one can predict the near future, thus planning for years ahead is difficult in the absence of political stability.”

The Palestinian government formed after the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah last year, headed by Rami Hamdallah, has been unable to extend full power on the Gaza Strip as a result of the continuation of the political dispute between the two factions. It should be noted that Hamas continues to control the Gaza Strip, which faced three wars under its rule, in addition to the suffocating Israeli blockade.

The international and local NGOs’ lack of a unified, clear and official plan to determine work parameters and expenses contributed the dispersion of the financial aid to the Gaza Strip. Donor countries and organizations are setting their own conditions for the distribution of funds and donations through local organizations or directly, while the Gaza Strip remains prisoner to this indispensable aid.



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