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Poverty report paints disturbing picture of Israel
By DANIELLE ZIRI
12/17/2012
Annual alternative poverty report says 2012 is a "bad year" for Israel with increase in begging, hunger and social inequality.
 
Latet, an organization that provides assistance to needy populations in Israel, released on Monday its annual alternative poverty report, which paints 2012 as “a bad year” for Israel.

Some of the report’s most disturbing facts were in regard to children in needy families.

According to the data, which was presented at a conference in Rishon Lezion on Monday morning, half of the children of impoverished families are forced to work today – a sharp increase compared to 2011, when this figure was only 19 percent. In general, one out of five Israeli children have had to drop out of school for this reason.

Ten percent of children of impoverished families have also begged for money on the streets over the past year due to difficult economic situations at home. In 2011, only 3% of children did so.

Overall, 27% of children in Israel have experienced full days without food this year, up from 21% in 2011.

Economic hardship also seems to be taking a toll on the children’s education.

According to the report, 21% of needy families had to send their children to boarding school in 2012, an increase of 23% compared to 2011.

Also, one-fifth of those families reported that in order to be able to purchase basic food products, they had to give up on proper education for their children.

Purchasing books and school supplies, for example, was made difficult for these families – as 62% of their kids did not have the necessary materials to study this year.

The children were also affected socially, as 69% of them did not participate in social school activities in 2012.

In addition, only 4% of the elderly in Israel who receive government allowances reported that the sum enabled them to live with dignity.

Ninety-five percent of Israelis who receive aid from NGOs said they were forced to forgo essential needs due to their inability to afford them, and 63% were unable to pay for their medical needs. This is “alarming information,” according to the report, in light of the fact that 36% of those receiving the aid are chronically ill and disabled – a 44% increase compared to 2011.

The issue of employment was also addressed by the Latet survey. It found that 15% of Israelis were working at a second job or had to change jobs to increase their income, and 18% of the general public took a bank loan to cope with economic hardship in 2012.

Moreover, 53% of the country’s unemployed said they could not find work because of health problems and limitations, reflecting an increase of 20% compared to 2011.

In terms of health, it was noted that 38% of the general public suffered from diseases caused by malnutrition and stress, and 21% of aid recipients suffer from diabetes, which is in direct correlation with poverty. Blood sugar imbalances can be due to the inability to purchase medicine and food adapted to the disease and its food requirements.

Latet executive director Eran Weintraub said in a statement, “If we want to survive as a society in another 60 years, we should not treat poverty as a result of circumstances, but understand that its scope, its severity and its depth, are a direct result of policy – which brings Israel closer to third world countries and drives it further away from the developed Western world.”

“The grave situation of poor children and the increasing barriers that prevent them from exiting poverty promise us more generations of penury and distress,” he added.

Weintraub also stated that poverty must become a major national priority on the government’s agenda and suggested that the authorities implement an emergency plan to reduce poverty by half, which will bring Israel closer to the average poverty rates of the rest of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries.

“Our aim at Latet, which is a non-partisan and non-governmental organization, is that the ‘social flag’ will not give up on just an election slogan. Therefore, we appeal to all the main parties competing for the 19th Knesset to state their plans to reduce poverty and commit to solving the problem,” said Weintraub.

The poverty survey has been administered by Latet annually for ten years, and presents a more insightful picture than the National Insurance Institute’s annual survey – as it takes a closer look at the daily struggles of the poor in Israel.

This year’s report includes responses from 675 needy people who receive aid from NGOs distributing food, and another 500 members of the general public.

Out of those 500, 69% of the respondents thought the most urgent problem in Israel is the treatment of poverty and social inequalities, followed by 61% who prioritized education, followed by only 44% who chose national security .

Furthermore, 75% believed that the socioeconomic situation in Israel represents a greater threat than Iran.

Ahead of the January 22 elections, 56% of respondents also said that a party’s commitment to addressing poverty significantly affects their voting decision.
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