The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is observed annually on 17 October to acknowledge the struggle of people living in poverty and promote awareness of the need to eradicate poverty and destitution worldwide. As the international community embarks on this year’s campaign, themed “Building Forward Together: Ending Persistent Poverty, Respecting all People and our Planet,” Al Mezan Center for Human Rights provides a brief analysis of the poverty conditions in the Gaza Strip, looking in particular at its root causes—namely, 14 years of Israel’s illegal closure policy and repeated military offensives characterized by the indiscriminate targeting of protected civilians and civilian objects.
Israel’s repeated military offensives against the Gaza Strip are a major factor in undoing any progress in the fight against poverty. According to Al Mezan’s documentation, Israel’s May 2021 offensive against Gaza—the deadliest escalation since 2014—not only resulted in the large-scale destruction of vital economic establishments, but also led to the death of scores of civilians. Among those killed were 93 Palestinians in Gaza who served as their family’s main source of income and who collectively provided for around 500 relatives, including 193 children.
The May 2021 offensive was also characterized by concentrated attacks on residential buildings, during which 1,504 residential units were destroyed and 6,373 others were damaged by Israeli forces. This resulted in mass evacuations and the forced displacement of thousands of residents. Similarly, throughout the offensive, Israeli attacks destroyed 851 public facilities, 427 commercial facilities, and 51 industrial facilities. Further, they destroyed 673 agricultural lands that benefit some 6,696 individuals in Gaza, thus denying hundreds of farmers and workers their means of subsistence, further threatening food security and the humanitarian conditions of the impoverished farming community.
Meanwhile, projected poverty impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has so far resulted in 1,506 deaths and 179,635 infections in the Gaza Strip, and ensuing quarantine measures, reveal that thousands of people are being pushed into poverty and unemployment due to the crisis, with a decline in food security. The pandemic has revealed and exacerbated the social protection gaps in Gaza’s welfare system as several vulnerable categories—largely consisting of daily laborers, women, and senior citizens—remain without coverage. In this context, Al Mezan notes that the Palestinian Ministry of Development’s delay in providing cash assistance within its welfare program is causing further hardship to some 79,629 low-income families in Gaza.
Added together, these factors have brought the Gaza Strip into a situation of persistent poverty and de-development—a troubling scenario that is also confirmed by the following figures. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), the rates of unemployment and poverty currently stand at 45% and 53%, respectively. However, the World Bank expects the poverty rate to rise to 64% as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Even more striking is the food insecurity rate of 62.2%, with 80 percent of the population in the Gaza Strip mainly dependent on international aid.
Al Mezan also recalls that the Palestine Monetary Authority’s restrictive measures and protocols on civil society organizations, notably those pertaining to freedom of association, are hindering their response to the humanitarian crises in Gaza. The decline in international funding is also thwarting the organizations’ ability to access and provide aid to marginalized communities.
Recognizing that poverty impedes the enjoyment of fundamental human rights, including healthcare, adequate housing, and access to water and power supply, Al Mezan reaffirms that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people persistently undermines efforts to alleviate poverty. Therefore, Al Mezan calls on the international community to:
Al Mezan also stresses the need to reconsider protocols relevant to funding civil society organizations and ensure the resumption of regular welfare payments to destitute families. To this end, competent Palestinian authorities are urged to establish strategies aiming at the eradication of poverty in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly in the Gaza Strip.