Beach Camp, Gaza
As the saying goes, 'give a man a fish and he will feed himself for a day, teach a man how to fish and he will feed himself for a lifetime’. Yet, in Gaza, even those who know how to fish have been driven to unemployment by the blockade.
If you go down to Gaza's seaport, you will find fishermen sitting in small groups repairing fishing nets and sewing new ones. They sit in circles talking to each other, or listening to the radio broadcasting old songs.
Listening to them, each and every one has a story of Gazan life and the huge difficulties that they encounter, on a daily basis, trying to feed themselves and their children. These include the closure of borders and crossing points, the nonexistence of raw materials, increased unemployment and unprecedented levels of poverty. The fishermen used to go fishing in their own boats, but because of a lack of financial resources and an external market for export, they are now unable to operate. Some boats have simply been destroyed during times of conflict.
However, for the small groups mending nets, there is some hope. These men are part of UNRWA’s job creation programme (JCP), which pays a monthly salary for mending and repairing nets. This work goes some way to alleviating the crippling poverty in which many now find themselves.
Wajih Hammad, 44 years, is a fisherman from Beach Camp and one of the beneficiaries of JCP. Hammad says "I have been a fisherman for over twenty years, and have never experienced circumstances like this. This project helps us by providing us with labourers to repair fishing nets, and giving a source of income for a number of the unemployed people who are looking after their families, as well as elderly fishermen who are unable to go fishing. It also saves us a lot of time and effort. In the past, we would need at least a month to repair a fishing net; now it only takes a week."
Net repair is not the only project on offer to fishermen. Other work placements include guarding the boats and tools of fishermen at night, gathering fishery wealth statistics and cleaning the beach.
Reyad El Shrafi is currently working gathering fishery wealth statistics. He says, "I really benefit from this project. I was a fisherman for more than thirty years. Because of the tough situation the Gaza Strip is going through, I became unemployed. I have a big family, and I struggled to provide for them. Four of my children are at university and their fees are a huge financial burden. I was frantically looking for another job to be able to feed my family, afford their basic needs and pay university fees. With this job I can now afford what I need."
Job creation is vital to boost the faltering Gazan economy, and allows beneficiaries to prioritise scarce financial resources to meet individual family needs. Furthermore, JCP employees often assist in the delivery of essential public services such as education and health, as well as supporting the agricultural and fishing sectors.
Perhaps the most important outcome is the sense of hope and purpose that the programme gives its beneficiaries. The provision of work rather than direct cash grants contributes towards the maintenance of dignity amongst the most vulnerable. As Hammad the fisherman states, it "raises our spirits"; which is rare in Gaza.
UNRWA and ECHO
Since 1992, the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) has funded relief to millions of victims of both natural disasters and man-made crises outside the EU. Aid is channeled impartially, straight to victims, regardless of their race, religion and political beliefs.
For the past 18 years, ECHO has supported UNRWA through a variety of programmes. UNRWA’s job creation programme receives nearly 50 per cent of its backing from ECHO. To find out more, read the programme’s factsheet (PDF).
To find out more visit the ECHO website.