By Mohammed Mar’i
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) yesterday released a pessimistic report summarizing the living conditions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2007. The report said that 49 percent of Palestinian households in the West Bank and 79 percent in the Gaza Strip live in poverty. 34 percent of Palestinians face “food insecurity” (which is defined as households with income and consumption of 1.6 dollars per day).
OCHA added that despite the Israeli promises to reduce them, the number of fixed physical barriers in the West Bank have increased from 528 to 563. The water supply dropped last year to 75 liters per person a day in the Strip and to 80.5 liters in the West Bank, approximately half the international standard.
Some 10,000 Palestinians who live in enclaves west of the West Bank fence are cut off from vital health and education services and from family and social networks.
While Palestinians and Israelis are arguing whether the cutting off the electricity supply in Gaza will lead to a humanitarian disaster or if it is just a cynical attempt by Hamas to gain points on the backs of unfortunate Palestinian children, the largest emergency appeal ever to raise $462 million to cover the basic needs of the Palestinian population in the territories will be announced today in Jerusalem.
The consolidated appeal being planned by 12 UN agencies and 28 nongovernmental organizations, including 15 international ones, is the third largest in the world, larger than the appeals on behalf of the residents of Somalia, Zimbabwe and Chad. Doomsayers in the human rights organizations warned of the “Somalization” of Gaza, with regard to the collapse of the central power and the demise of the rule of law.
In the meantime, from a humanitarian perspective, Somalia is already here, right on our doorstep. Only the consolidated appeals for Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo rank ahead of it. The heads of the organizations claim that if there is not a dramatic turnabout in the situation in the territories, the seven billion dollars the donors promised in the meeting of donor countries in Paris will go down the drain. If the policy of closures and the regime of roadblocks continue, even 70 billion dollars won’t help the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
According to the OCHA’s report, to be released alongside the announcement of the consolidated appeal, the situation in the Palestinian territories can only get worse.
(Source: Arab News: www.arabnews.com; 28 January. 2008)