PALESTINE — In 2000, Palestinians protested Israeli occupation in what became known as the second intifada, or uprising. In response, Israel banned Palestinian movement from Gaza to the West Bank. The effects of this ban were compounded by Israel’s withholding of Palestinian tax money and by Israel’s 2007 ban of steel, cement and gravel into Palestine.
Israel imposed the ban on steel, cement and gravel because those goods are dual-use goods: goods that can also be used as weapons of war. The ban on Palestinian imports and the limitations placed on the movement of Palestinian goods and people have reduced Palestinian job opportunities and economic growth. As a result, the unemployment rate in Palestine has increased rapidly and 44 percent of people in the Gaza Strip are currently jobless.
The high level of unemployment has led to increasing levels of poverty and lack of food. As of 2013, 33 percent of households in Palestine were food insecure. With this scarcity of resources comes malnutrition.
Before the blockade, malnutrition was not prevalent. However, between 2000 and 2010, malnutrition rose by 41.3 percent in Palestine and by 60 percent in Gaza alone. In 2004, stunting and malnutrition affected 9.4 percent of children under five in Palestine and 11 percent in Gaza. This number has not decreased significantly. In June 2014, 10 percent of children in Gaza below the age of five were still inflicted by stunting and chronic malnutrition.
Malnutrition and food insecurity have staggering consequences. Malnutrition does not just affect the lives of Palestinians in the present. Since it leads to retarded cognitive and physical development, it also affects Palestine’s future national development.
Since the blockade prevents many Palestinians from getting the food and nutrients they need, anemia has risen in Palestine as well. Anemia is a condition where the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells or the number of red blood cells are inadequate.
Anemia mostly affects children and pregnant mothers, and causes weakness, fatigue, drowsiness and dizziness. Fifty percent of children under the age of two in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip suffer from anemia, and so do 39.1 percent of pregnant women in the Gaza Strip and 15.4 percent of pregnant women in the West Bank. Since anemia is related to increased levels of maternal mortality, the blockade is leading to higher death rates during childbirth.
While malnutrition and anemia remain prevalent, aid is helping to assist suffering families. The World Food Program food distribution and voucher program provided more than 340,000 displaced people aid during the height of the summer 2014 conflict. However, while aid does provide help to some families, Israel has blocked some attempts to provide aid to Palestinians.
Aid is giving more people hope, but malnutrition and anemia levels remain high in Palestine. The fact that malnutrition levels have stayed about the same from 2004 to 2014 suggests that major changes have to be made. Israel’s blockade restrictions and limitations on aid need to decrease, and foreign aid needs to increase, in order to help stop rising malnutrition rates and to help restore the health of Palestine’s population.
– Ashrita Rau
Sources: MAP, PCBS, UN News Centre, The Borgen Project 1, The Borgen Project 2, Jhpiego, WFP, International Business Times, UNISPAL, WHO 1, WHO 2, UNRWA, The New York Times, HRW, VOA News
Photo: Heart of Palestine