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60% of Palestinians Living in Poverty,
Says PA Minster of Labor

Palestinian Minister of Labor, Ghassan Khatib, warned that the Palestinian economy has reached the point of no return, pointing out that more than 60 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are living in poverty. According to Khatib, the PA needs $15 million a month to solve the escalating problem of unemployment.

“At least half of the Palestinian labor force has become unemployed,” Khatib said, adding that Israel was intensifying economic pressure on the Palestinians to achieve political goals.

Khatib meanwhile said the best way to boost the Palestinian economy is by supporting programs aimed at providing jobs for the unemployed, adding that his ministry has launched a number of projects aimed at helping such individuals.

According to Khatib, “There are many Palestinian sectors which need regular help, first and foremost the labor sector, and I mean the unemployed in particular. It’s time that we have supporting programs for small projects that provide work opportunities for both the private and public sectors. We also need to support the universities, which are facing serious financial crises.”
Peter Hansen, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said earlier that Palestinian refugees are facing an acute humanitarian crisis marked by high rates of unemployment, poverty, and malnutrition.

“There can be no question that we are indeed living through a downward spiral,” he pointed out.

“Few places have ever undergone as steep and rapid a decline in income and living standards and as rapid an increase in mass deprivation as the Palestinian population has been experiencing for the past two years,” the UN official warned.

Unemployment has risen to 80 percent in some areas, while the level of absolute poverty had risen “disastrously,” Hansen said, adding that approximately 70% of the population is living on less than $2 per person per day.

Levels of acute malnutrition have reached 25%, hitting women and children the hardest, he said.

Moreover, Israeli roadblocks closures restricting travel are keeping workers from places of employment, children from schools, and doctors and patients from clinics, Hansen stressed.

In addition, the vaccination rate has dropped to 85%, he said, adding, “If it falls below that, we are running real risks of epidemics as diseases spread.”

IOF curfews and blockades of villages, towns, and refugee camps affects several hundred thousand people, and some areas, such as Nablus, are under virtually continuous curfew, Hansen said.

Such conditions “completely strangulate the local economy and hence help this downward spiral to accelerate,” he said, adding: “It’s a very bleak picture indeed.”

UNRWA is delivering emergency relief to thousands of Palestinian refugees, but this year, it has received only $90m of the $172m it sought from donors, Hansen said.

“I continue to appeal to the international community not to let the refugees be forgotten,” Hansen said, adding that discussions with the Israeli authorities are ongoing to allow UNRWA improved access to those in need of assistance.

(Palestine Media Center ( Redistributed via Press International News Agency )