UNRWA: Gaza blockade anniversary report

14 June 2011

As the Gaza blockade moves into its fifth year, a new UN report finds unemployment there among the highest in the world while the Hamas-dominated public sector grows

13 June 2011
Jerusalem

As the Gaza blockade moves into its fifth year, a new report by the UN’s agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, says broad unemployment in the second half of 2010 reached 45.2 per cent, one of the highest in the world. The report released today, finds that real wages continued to decline under the weight of persistently high unemployment, falling 34.5 per cent since the first half of 2006.

“These are disturbing trends,” said UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness, “and the refugees, which make up two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.5 million population were the worst hit in the period covered in this report. It is hard to understand the logic of a man-made policy which deliberately impoverishes so many and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution.”

The UNRWA report finds that the private sector was particularly badly hit compared to the government sector. In the second half of 2010 businesses shed over 8,000 jobs, a decline in employment of nearly 8 per cent relative to the first half of the year. By contrast, the Hamas-dominated public sector grew by nearly 3 per cent during the same period.

“Our research indicates that since 2007, Hamas has been able to increase public employment by at least one-fifth,” said Gunness. “Even more striking, in what should have been a relatively good year for the Gaza private sector with the supposed easing of the blockade, the public sector generated 70 per cent of all net job growth as between second-half 2009 and second-half 2010. If the aim of the blockade policy was to weaken the Hamas administration, the public employment numbers suggest this has failed. But it has certainly been highly successful in punishing some of the poorest of the poor in the Middle East region.”

“Amid this economic gloom, UNRWA will continue with its human development work in health and education, running schools for some 213,000 children in Gaza, helping them towards a belief in an educated, dignified and peaceful future,” said Gunness. “But the number of people coming to us, the abject poor living on just over 1 dollar a day, has tripled to 300,000 since the blockade was imposed and with many reconstruction projects still awaiting approval, the future looks bleak.”

Download the full report (PDF)

-Ends-

For more information please contact:

Christopher Gunness
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0267
c.gunness@unrwa.org 

Sami Mshasha
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0724
s.mshasha@unrwa.org  

Salem Ajluni
+972 (0)54 216 8408

Background Information

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 68.2 million.

For more information, please contact:

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