NGO: Over 1 million Israeli children in poverty

Half of welfare recipients say they frequently or occasionally lacked sufficient food at home.

A homeless person begs for change in Israel (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A homeless person begs for change in Israel
Some 2.3 million Israelis, including over one million children and accounting for 26.5% of the entire population, live below the poverty line, according to Latet’s 2018 Alternative Poverty Report published on Thursday.
The annual report, published this year for the sixteenth time, details the latest trends of poverty and insecurity in Israel and seeks to show society the human aspect of poverty that it considers lacking in official statistical reports.
“Could it be that we have simply gotten used to it?” said Latet CEO Eran Weintraub.
“We have got used to the reports of poverty and to the statistics, to the fact that we have the worst poverty rates in the West, while in other fields such as technology and medicine we are among the leading countries worldwide.
“The poor children have not gotten used to it, and so we cannot either. We must not. Our job is to fight and not give up on them, not to give in to ourselves or to decision-makers. We must be here for them.”
According to Latet, the primary food of 80.2% of children in the welfare system is bread and butter (36.9%) and carbohydrates (43.3%). This marks a significant increase since 2016, when the figure stood at 67.7%.
Among the welfare-dependent elderly, some 92.4% of those in poverty said that their monthly pension does not enable or only partially enables them to meet the basic needs of dignified living. Another 78.9% experienced feelings of loneliness frequently or occasionally in the past year, and 48.4% said they often felt lonely.
The report found that a majority of welfare recipients, almost 53%, said they frequently or occasionally lacked sufficient food at home during the past year, compared to only 5.8% of the wider population.
A total of 77.5% said they did not have sufficient finances to purchase food to provide balanced meals, compared to 17.4% of Israeli society.
Despite a decrease of 8.4% since last year, 70.9% of welfare-dependent Israelis said they are currently in debt, with 48.9% stating they had been prevented access to their bank accounts due to debt and initiation of legal proceedings and claims.
More than half (54.9%) of those unemployed and living in poverty find themselves in such a situation due to health-related issues. Some 27.4% of poor Israelis suffer from high blood pressure and 25.4% from diabetes, and a total of 68.4% admitted to not purchasing necessary medicines or treatments as they did not have the financial means to pay for them.
“This report attests to the severe detached nature of a government suffering from choice blindness – no traffic jams with new cars or lines at Ben-Gurion Airport can hide the shameful hunger of one million children,” said MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (Zionist Union), chairwoman of the Knesset Lobby for the Israeli Family, responding to the report.
“Anyone who does not understand the meaning of a million hungry children, even if you cannot witness the horrific sights of swollen bellies because there is always white bread and margarine available, will never try to solve the problem and the social gaps,” she said.
“A government as full and inflated with importance as the third Netanyahu government will never be able to deal with this disgrace. These are not the yellow vests, this is a stop sign before losing the social way entirely.”
The report detailed that 66% of the Israeli public considers poverty and social gaps as the most pressing or second most pressing issue to be addressed by the government today – a decrease from 70.5% last year.
While three-quarters of the public believe the government is the primary body responsibly for reducing poverty, only one-quarter said that the government is actually addressing the issue. Some 36.9% of the public believe the government refrains from setting targets for poverty reduction as long-term results are not of interest to politicians.