April 26th, 2007 10:54 EST
Living Conditions for Palestinians Keep Deteriorating
Living conditions inside the occupied Palestinian territory continued to decline through the second half of last year, with the situation especially dire in the Gaza Strip, according to the latest progress report by the main United Nations tasked with helping Palestinian refugees.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), in its emergency appeal progress report for July to December 2006, found that Israel’s impounding of custom revenues and the concurrent freeze in donor support has left the Palestinian Authority starved of resources and unable to provide basic services.
Financial resources available to the Palestinian Authority in 2006 fell – by more than 35 per cent to $1.4 billion – on the previous year, and real gross domestic product (GDP) slumped as well, leaving per capita GDP nearly 40 per cent below the levels before the latest intifada. Many more Palestinians now depend on emergency aid.
The situation is particularly acute in Gaza, where 80 per cent of households earn less than $1 a day, twice as many as in the West Bank, and 40 per cent of adults are unemployed. Many of those who did work, such as some of the employees of the Palestinian Authority, did not receive their full salaries in 2006 because of the financial crisis.
Israel stopped handing over tax and customs revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority and international donors suspended direct aid after Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel, won elections at the start of last year and formed a Government. Israel and the donors have called on Hamas to commit to non-violence, recognize its neighbour and accept previously signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.
The UNRWA report concluded that the crisis has been “compounded by protracted Israeli military operations in Gaza and increased restrictions on movement for Palestinians across the occupied Palestinian territory, coupled with rising levels of internal tension.”
It detailed the measures the agency has introduced to try to mitigate the problems experienced by Palestinians, including the creation of temporary job opportunities, both direct and indirect, the provision of cash subsidies and goods to the most vulnerable households, and help with health-care services.