UN: Gaza poverty at unprecedented high

UNRWA reports 51.8% of population below poverty line; blames Israeli movement restrictions, blockade.

unrwa aid gaza 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
unrwa aid gaza 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The number of households in the Gaza Strip below the poverty line has reached an unprecedented high of nearly 52 percent, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said in a report published recently. "The number of households in Gaza below the consumption poverty line continued to grow, reaching 51.8% in 2007, despite significant amounts of emergency and humanitarian assistance," UNRWA said in a statement late last week. Meanwhile, poverty rates in the West Bank fell to just over 19%. The report, based on figures provided by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), said that "the real average unemployment rate in the occupied Palestinian territory (as a whole) remained amongst the highest in the world at 29.5%," with Gaza reaching "an unprecedented high of 45.3%" during the second half of last year. The report added that Palestinian youth was most affected by the fledgling economy, with members of the 15-24 age group "least likely to gain employment and the most prone to increased unemployment." "If you deprive young people of an economic future, you deprive them of hope and when hope vanishes, what is left? How better to prevent despair and economic misery taking hold of a whole generation than to re-open Gaza's borders?" said UNRWA Spokesman, Christopher Gunness. The report concluded that "Israeli imposed movement restrictions in the occupied Palestinian territory, whose population is estimated to have grown by about one third since 1999, have resulted in considerable regression over the past eight years and remain the main barrier to economic recovery and development."