Welfare Minister Meir Cohen 370.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Nearly half of the children in families supported by social welfare bodies in
Israel have gone a full day without eating. In addition, some 70 percent of the
people who receive assistance live without basic nutritional security and lack
These and other findings, released Monday at the National
Conference of Charities taking place in Tel Aviv, are from the annual poverty
report published by the Israeli aid group Latet.
They are based on data
gathered in the second half of 2013 from respondents aged 18 and up among both
the general population and the population receiving some form of
Among children under 18 whose families receive assistance, 9%
had to steal food to survive, while 12% were forced to pick up food from the
floor or garbage bins.
Further, 50% of children lived mainly off of
carbohydrates, with 37% living mainly off of bread and
Sixty-four percent of the families receiving assistance had to
choose between buying food and other basic necessities.
of the adults receiving assistance worked but were unable to earn enough money
to escape from poverty. Twenty- five percent of their children had to work in
order to help out, and 29% had dropped out of school.
The study also
found that 85% of the families receiving assistance did not feel secure in their
neighborhood, while 88% reported they had to forgo heat or air-conditioning due
to financial difficulties.
Of the families receiving assistance, 67%
believed their situation had worsened in 2013 due to economic
Among respondents from the general public, 45% feared they
would end up in poverty due to the economic situation, an increase of 32%
compared to 2012.
Forty-one percent of the respondents from the general
public believed that the most pressing problem facing the government was poverty
and growing social gaps, while 72% placed this issue first or second.
Latet we see our mission as a struggle against poverty,” said chairman and
founder Gilles Darmon at the conference. “We help people who need help now, but
in the long run we haven’t really done anything unless we push public discourse
and pressure politicians to really make a change and take people out of
Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen attended the
conference and addressed the importance of charitable organizations like Latet
in combating poverty as well as the government plan to establish a national
nutritional security initiative and to allocate NIS 200 million to this
“The responsibility to address poverty should fall on the
government, not on the charities. The government should be at the front and the
charities providing back up – and not the other way around,” Cohen said to the
This statement echoed the tone and theme of panel speakers at
the conference throughout the day.
Nevertheless, during the Q & A
session with the minister, nearly all questions reflected skeptical inquiries as
to how and when the funds would impact the real situation on the
“Taking people out of poverty is definitely not just NIS 200
million,” said the minister.
“Poverty is not just about lacking food; it
is not having access to culture, to education, to healthcare… to job
“We will always leave a very sizable sum to combat poverty,
always,” assured Cohen.
In a joint statement issued prior to the
conference, Darmon and the director of Latet, Eran Weintraub, said: “Our
expectation is that the commitment of the finance and welfare ministers to
allocate NIS 200 million to the treatment of nutritional security will be
implemented immediately and that the money will finally arrive on site, so as to
ease the plight of tens of thousands of families who need it so
“This is a test of leadership for the finance minister toward the
Treasury and for the welfare minister toward the entire system, and the ability
of both to implement policies. If the plan is implemented, it will be no less
than a historic milestone in the perception of responsibility of the Israeli
government on the way to formulating a national plan to reduce poverty,” the
During a panel discussion of the findings in the
Latet report on poverty, Eli Alalouf, chairman of the Committee to Fight Poverty
at the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, summed things
“Poverty is something you leave,” he said, “not something you get