‘Latet’: Kahlon turned his back on poverty issues

Humanitarian aid organization claims minister of welfare and social affairs failed to address country’s deepening poverty.

December 13, 2011 07:01
3 minute read.
Likud Minister Moshe Kahlon

Likud Minister Moshe Kahlon 311. (photo credit: Avi Hayun)

Minister of Welfare and Social Affairs Moshe Kahlon has failed in his role as the person responsible for addressing the country’s deepening poverty, and has not even attempted to address society’s widening socioeconomic gaps, claims a report released Tuesday by the humanitarian aid organization Latet.

“Minister Moshe Kahlon is the person responsible for reducing the country’s poverty but he has not acted fast enough to launch a national program that will deal with this problem,” wrote the non-profit organization in its annual Alternative Poverty Report, which is based on data collected from more than 100 food-aid charities countrywide and on in-depth interviews with individuals and families living below the poverty line.

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According to Latet, organizations working to distribute food to the country’s needy populations saw an incredible rise in the number of requests to feed children in 2011, with an increase of some 225 percent in the number of parents expressing concern that their children will be in need of assistance from charities in the future.

The organizations that work with Latet also overwhelming said they felt the government is not doing enough to adequately tackle poverty.

“Despite witnessing the terrible hardships faced by those in poverty, and despite seeing the situation deteriorate over the past few years, we are still stuck with an anti-social justice government,” commented Latet’s Director Eran Weintraub.

He added: “It is time for us to ask: Where is Minister of Welfare and Social Affairs Moshe Kahlon? Where is the minister who was so active in the Ministry of Communication and made so many changes?”

Weintraub pointed out that the welfare minister is the person responsible for addressing and improving the welfare situation, but that it has been almost a year since Kahlon took over the ministry and “he has not even attempted to address this issue or create a national policy that will reduce poverty.”

The minister’s spokesman declined to comment on Latet’s claims.

While Latet made clear its views regarding the minister’s alleged inaction, the report also highlighted some of the hardships faced by those living below the poverty line.

According to the report, one in every five needy children often goes without real food for several days and some 59% of children in need forgo one main meal every day.

The Alternative Poverty Report also noted that 91% of needy children do not receive any kind of dental care and just over half (51%) do not have full health insurance coverage.

In addition, nearly half (48%) cannot afford to take after-school enrichment classes or private lessons, 71% cannot afford to purchase appropriate books or school equipment and 75% do not join the annual class trip.

Other sectors of society face extreme hardships too, with the report finding that only 7% of the elderly feel their pension is enough for them to live with dignity.

Figures released last month by the National Insurance Institute showed that the number of poor families actually fell by 20.5% in 2010, with 433,300 families, or 19.8% of the population, living below the poverty line. The line is defined as half the median income.

Latet, however, objects to such statistics, pointing out that while the numbers might be down the scope and scale of the problem is increasing and addressing poverty needs a more humanistic approach.

Since joining the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s (OECD) last year, pointed out Weintraub, Israel is the last country in the West to tackle poverty or to properly address the unequal gaps between rich and poor.

“The social protests may be forgotten for the moment, but there is a human time bomb of hardship that continues to tick away and threaten the future of Israeli society. It is more alarming than the threat from Iran,” he said.

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