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Half Of Gaza Households Living Below Poverty Line

Over half of Gaza's households living below poverty line, UN says

24 July 2008 - Household poverty is worsening in Gaza, with over half of all households in the area living below the poverty line, according to a new report released today by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

In spite of "significant amounts of emergency and humanitarian assistance," last year the number of households in Gaza below the consumption poverty line surged to an all-time high 51.8 per cent, the publication - based on figures from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics - noted.

UNRWA also sounded the alarm that the unemployment rate in the occupied Palestinian territory is one of the highest in the world, standing at nearly 30 per cent.

Unemployment reached a record 45.3 per cent in Gaza between July and December 2007. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in the West Bank was 25 per cent, double the average rate in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Youth were hardest hit by surging unemployment, the study, entitled "Prolonged Crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory: Socio-Economic Developments in 2007," said.

"If you deprive young people of an economic future, you deprive them of hope and when hope vanishes, what is left?" asked Christopher Gunness, UNRWA spokesperson. "How better to prevent despair and economic misery taking hold of a whole generation than to re-open Gaza's borders?"

Data showed that in Gaza, new public sector jobs - partly fuelled by Hamas' job creation initiatives - accounted for one quarter of job growth last year.

The report expressed concern over "the low level of investment spending in both the public and private sectors" in the medium- and long-run, cautioning that "Israeli imposed movement restrictions in the occupied Palestinian territory, whose population is estimated to have grown by about one third since 1999, have resulted in considerable regression over the past eight years and remain the main barrier to economic recovery and development."

ENDS

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