Gaza Siege Taking Toll on Farming Sector

The continuing Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip is putting the lives of a host of people at risk as it has taken a heavy toll on the agriculture sector of the enclave.

Farmers are struggling to meet the growing demands of 1.5 million Gazans, who are living in the tight grip of an Israeli siege. They face many challenges due to shortages in farming equipment and more importantly, approved pesticides, a Press TV correspondent in Gaza reported on Wednesday.

“There is no way here to ensure that we are using the right pesticides. The chemicals that come through the tunnels are not suited to our needs, but without them, our crops will die,” Mohammad al-Halima, a farmer who grows fruit and vegetables for local consumption, told Press TV.

Forty-six percent of Gaza’s fertile lands were razed during the three-week Israeli war on the coastal sliver. Many of them are now inaccessible to farmers living near the border with Israel.

Due to decline in production, coupled with Israel’s ban on the entry of basic commodities, Gazan farmers have resorted to the use of banned chemical substances to maximize the crop yield. This poses a serious health hazard to both farmers and their consumers.

The United Nation has meanwhile expressed concerns over the excessive use of toxic pesticides by Gazan farmers.

“Part of this is the result of the [Israeli] blockade and unregulated pesticides coming through the tunnels from Egypt. And part of it, one can say, is a result of a lack of ability to study the issue. Many of the laboratories and testing facilities were damaged during the Operation Cast Lead, or have been forced to shut since then,” the Emergency Program Officer of UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Simon Boas, told Press TV in Gaza.

Many medical experts in Gaza have voiced anxieties over the increase in the number of registered Gazan cancer patients, especially in the agricultural areas. They warn that children are more susceptible to diseases such as leukemia than adults in such regions.

“We receive many cases of poisoning due to the excessive use of pesticides. The toxic pesticides have led to a rise in renal failures, respiratory problems as well as cancers. Toxins are also in the soil,” a doctor said.

Israel laid an economic siege on the Gaza Strip in June 2007, after Hamas took control of the enclave.

The Israeli-imposed blockade has had a disastrous impact on the humanitarian and economic situation in the Gaza Strip.

Some 1.5 million people are being denied their basic rights, including freedom of movement, and their rights to appropriate living conditions, work, health and education. Poverty and unemployment rates stand at approximately 80 percent and 60 percent, respectively, in the Gaza Strip.

More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed during the three-week Israeli land, sea and air offensive in the impoverished coastal sliver during the winter of 2008-2009. The offensive also inflicted $ 1.6 billion damage on the Gazan economy.

A United Nations inquiry led by the former South African judge, Richard Goldstone, detailed what investigators called Israeli actions "amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity," during Israel’s offensive against the Gaza Strip.

(Press TV)

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