Palestinians living in Gaza, who have struggled for years as a result of the U.S.-backed Israeli occupation, are facing a critical humanitarian crisis, according to a report released by the United Nations on Aug. 27. The report, “Palestine in 2020: A liveable place?” warned, “Fundamental infrastructure in electricity, water and sanitation, municipal and social services, is struggling to keep pace with the needs of the growing population.”
The U.N. report described a population devastated by the effects of the Israeli blockade. Unemployment stood at 29 percent in 2011 and has since increased. For Gazans between the ages of 20 and 24, the unemployment rate was 58 percent in the first quarter of 2012.
Over 1.6 million people live in Gaza, tightly packed into what human rights organizations have widely described as an open air prison due to the Israeli military blockade of its borders. The population is expected to grow to 2.1 million by 2020, putting increased pressure on a society already facing extreme deprivation. Hunger and malnutrition are serious problems facing many in Gaza. The report describes 44 percent of the households as food insecure, and notes that another 16 percent are vulnerable to food insecurity.
In noting the worsening conditions in Gaza, the report made a special warning of deteriorating conditions of the aquifer that provides water to the population, indicating that it may become unusable as early as 2016, and suffer permanent irreversible damage by 2020. It noted challenges to the sustainability of the aquifer are low water levels, pollution and high salinity.
Although the authors did not mention the approximately 1,400 Palestinians killed by Israel during the attacks of “Operation Cast Lead,” in December 2008 and January 2009, they did focus on the economic devastation caused by the onslaught. The operation destroyed or severely damaged 6,268 homes. Agriculture took a heavy blow, with 17 percent of the cultivated land destroyed. Total direct losses to agriculture were $181 million, with an additional $88 million in longer term losses. More than 1 million chickens and other birds and 35,750 cattle, sheep and goats were killed during “Cast Lead.”
Fishing off the coastal waters of Gaza could be an important source of protein for Gaza, but the report notes: “More than 3,000 fishermen do not have access to 85% of the maritime areas agreed to in the 1995 Oslo Accords. As a result, the fish catch has decreased dramatically over the years of closure.”
The report was compiled by the U.N. Country Team in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Members included Maxwell Gaylard, U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Jean Gough of the U.N. Children’s Fund, and Robert Turner of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians in the Near East.
Its authors called for an end to the Israeli blockade, concluding with the warning that Gaza will not be livable in the year 2020 unless there are “herculean efforts by Palestine and its partners.”
Honestly I'm surprised they have lasted as long as they have in Gaza.