NGO: Poor children are stealing food

NGO poverty report No

Two months after the publication of the National Insurance Institute's poverty report, the charity organization Latet published its own alternative poverty report that highlights the worsening plight of Israel's neediest citizens. This "alternative" poverty report points to a growing crisis in Israel, partly as a result of the economic slowdown. According to the report, in 2009 there was a 40-percent rise in deaths due to lack of access to medical treatment. Also, 62% of needy families were unable to provide their children with a balanced nutritional diet, and 63% were unable to purchase medicine. Furthermore, there has been a troubling 20% rise in the amount of the needy who contemplated taking their own life. According to the report, the amount of people who are considered "needy" grew by 15%, and 35% of those receiving assistance for the purchase of foodstuffs are gainfully employed - a jump of 50% from 2007. One of the more troubling statistics was that 6% of the needy steal food, and 20% of those surveyed said that their children had developed violent tendencies due to the economic crisis. Also, 75% of the children of those surveyed do not receive dental treatment. The survey also measured public attitudes to poverty, and how the issue was being addressed by the government. 80% of those surveyed said that the government was not contributing to solving the poverty problem and 53% said that they had been forced to lower their standard of living since the economic crisis began. Latet is an NGO that aims to supplement government efforts with those of civil society and individual citizens seeking to become more personally involved in humanitarian and development aid efforts. In contrast to Latet's data, the official poverty report from the National Insurance Institute said that there had been a stabilization in the poverty level in 2008, compared to 2007. Some 420,100 families, or 1,651,300 Israelis, lived below the poverty line in 2008, compared to 1,630,400 in 2007, according to the NII report. Last year, 783,600 of these were children, an increase from 773,900 the previous year. Even though the number of poor people increased slightly, Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog and NII director-general Esther Dominissini have said that despite the recession, the proportion of the population living below the poverty line had actually fallen from 23.8% in 2007, to 23.7% in 2008. "Even though there might have been a percentage reduction, the fact is that Israel still has a very high percent of people living in poverty," Dr. Roby Nathanson from the Macro Center for Political Economics in Tel Aviv told The Jerusalem Post when the report was released. "There has been almost no change to the overall picture." He highlighted that Israel's poverty rates, according to Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) figures, were comparable to countries such as Mexico, and were among the highest in the developed world. Ruth Eglash contributed to this report