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The unbearable reality of Gaza

By 2020, the Palestinian region will no longer be suffering a humanitarian crisis, it will have become “uninhabitable” by human beings. For the past five years Israel has blockaded the territory, by land, sea and air, meaning four out of five of the its inhabitants are dependent on outside aid in order to survive.

Miriam Valero

In order to guarantee “the security of the State of Israel” more than one and a half million people live their daily lives trapped and incapable of leaving the Gaza Strip, a territory barely 40 kilometres long by 9 wide.

Since the occupation of Gaza by Israel in 1967, life for the people who inhabit the strip has been dramatic.

After 40 years of being under the control of their neighbours, the humanitarian situation of the Gazans declined when, in 2007, Israel decided to go one step further and close its borders with the Palestinian territory.

This mean that today Israel has almost total control over the entry and exit of all goods and people to and from the region. This isolation has been going on for five years.

The blockade condemns the inhabitants of Gaza to a life without basics such as food, medicines and fuel, leading to a humanitarian crisis in the region.

And, in order to survive, four out of five inhabitants are dependent on foreign aid, which crosses into Gaza from the Egyptian border town of Rafah, the only crossing not controlled by the Israelis.

If nothing changes, the situation the Palestinians find themselves in threatens to develop into an irreversible tragedy and, according to a United Nations report on the region, by 2020 the Gaza Strip will have become uninhabitable.

The Present Situation

Up to now, one of the major consequences of the occupation and the resulting strangulation of the territory’s economic activity is that 40 percent of the inhabitants live in conditions of poverty.

More precisely, Amnesty International estimates that 70 percent of families live on less than one dollar per person per day, and in many cases, they live in refugee camps in the interior of the territory. Added to the poverty are the difficulties of getting food supplies and their soaring costs due to scarcity. In a society with massive unemployment, affecting 30 percent of the overall population, and reaching up to 50 percent amongst the female population, the inhabitants of Gaza simply aren’t able to pay these prices

In addition to this, the sectors offering work to Gazans are becoming fewer and fewer. Despite their privileged costal position, it is impossible to make a living from fishing as the blockade only allows Gazans to fish up to a 3 miles from shore. Sectors of economic activity in Gaza are therefore reduced to construction, and the reconstruction of buildings destroyed by Israeli offensives.

Essential front line medical services can also not be guaranteed in Gaza. The hospitals suffer power cuts that last anywhere between eight and twelve hours a day. They also don’t have access to supplies of antibiotics, drugs used for the treatment of injuries or healthcare equipement.

This situation leads to many inhabitants requesting permission to leave the country in order to be treated abroad. In many cases the Israeli government refuses to grant permission, or drags its heals in granting permission until the condition of the patient has become so serious as to be too late for treatment.

Similarly, access to water is very limited for Palestinians and sanitation in the region is in a very critical condition according to World Bank reports. Many of the ground water sources are contaminated and in need of treatment and half a million people do not have access to domestic plumbing.

Urgent Measures

The result of all of this will be that, if Gaza is not able to receive better emergency aid for education, sanitation and energy sources before 2020, it will no longer be capable of sustaining human life. In order to avoid this happening 71,000 new dwellings, 440 schools and 800 new hospital beds needs to be created immediately. 1000 doctors must also been allowed to come into the zone and energy sources must be doubled from what is currently available.

A United Nations report highlights the fact that the population of Gaza will have increased by half a million by the year 2020. This will have a profound effect on another of the zones scarcest commodities – water. It is estimated that the main costal aquifer, Gazas principal source of fresh water, will have dried up within the next four years.

While those around them decide whether or not they will be allowed to live in peace and dignity, the Gazans tries to find a little breathing space through the secret underground tunnels connecting the strip with Eygpt. The underground tunnels are used to bring in all kinds of essential goods, from cars to food.

However, these clandestine survival routes are also being closed down now that Egypt has begun blocking the passage of some of the underground lorries. They have also begun construction of a wall that will stretch the length of the border. Israel is also trying to put an end to these escape routes by locating missiles on lands earmarked for development.

(Translated by Viv Griffiths)

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