Charity warns of acute poverty being created by Israeli occupation

29 January 2003
A report by the charity Christian Aid into the state of the Palestinian economy, released on 29 January, paints a bleak picture, saying that the impact of extreme poverty in the West Bank and Gaza has as much affect on the daily lives of residents as the Palestinian-Israeli violence. Although some of the blame is laid at the door of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is accused of corruption and inefficiency at addressing the poverty, the main cause is the Israeli military occupation. The charity calls on the international community to put pressure on Israel to withdraw to the positions it held before September 2000. Almost three-quarters of the Palestinian population are living on less than $2 a day and a quarter of children are anaemic, the study found. Traders are unable to travel because of restrictions and curfews, while olive and citrus groves are destroyed by Israeli tanks, said the charity. On 21 January, the Israeli army bulldozed more than 60 Palestinian shops and small businesses in the village of Nazlat Issa, near the West Bank town of Tulkarm, saying that they were constructed without permits. Palestinians accused the Israelis of deliberately trying to destroy the economy (MEED 22:1:03). A March 2002 report by the World Bank estimated that damage to Palestinian infrastructure, agriculture and buildings between September 2000 and June 2001 was about $168 million. 'Damage has continued to occur almost daily since, especially to security-related public buildings, private homes, and agriculture,' the report said.

Christian Aid also pointed to the inequitable distribution of water resources and called for a forum to be established to allocate them more fairly. On 27 January, hydrology expert Akram Hassan al-Hallaq, delivering a lecture at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza, alleged that Israel had drained off 80 per cent of the groundwater in the Gaza Strip and that the water shortage had consequently reached crisis proportions.

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