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The long siege of Gaza

The Gaza Strip has been under siege for a long time. As a result, people are out of jobs, have trouble finding adequate housing, healthcare has suffered, unemployment risen, and the economy taken a lethal beating.

Gaza is densely packed with some 1.5 million people. The Majority of Gazans are refugees who fled or were expelled from the land that is today Israel following the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. Over 3/4 of residents are registered refugees. Most Gazans live in refugee camps.

Over half of these refugees live in eight large camps. These camps depend on UN deliveries of aid for food, health, and education.

The UN states that:

The refugee camps in the Gaza Strip have among the highest population densities in the world. For example, over 80,688 refugees live in Beach camp whose area is less than one square kilometer. This high population density is reflected in the overcrowded UNRWA schools and classrooms.

In February 2009 The Word Health Organization assessed the damage following the 2008-2009 Israeli invasion of Gaza, and found that nearly half of health facilities assessed were damaged or destroyed during the attack. The same report indicated that during the war, over 430 children and 112 women were killed, while nearly 1900 children and about 800 women were injured.

The siege and suffering of the people of Gaza has been long lasting.

The BMJ medical journal published a survey in 2002 indicating that, in the Gaza Strip, “13% of children under 5 years old were suffering from short term malnutrition and almost 18% had long term malnutrition—compared with a level of about 2% in countries that the World Health Organization defines as having moderate malnutrition.” Things are bad when almost a third of children under 5 suffer from malnutrition.

Since the 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza, Israel has greatly intensified the blockade of the Gaza Strip, cutting off the region from the outside world, and reducing to a trickle access to essential supplies.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a report in May 2010 that found “46% of agricultural lands were assessed to be inaccessible or out of production in Gaza.

The FAO report further states that:

The  Agriculture  Sector  in  the Gaza  Strip  has  the  potential  to  export  2300  tons  of strawberries,  55  million  carnation  flowers,  and  714  tons  of  cherry  tomatoes  per annum  in addition  to  locally consumed products. There has been close  to zero export  activity  due  to  restrictions  since  the  blockade.  Exceptions  to  these  export restrictions  during  the  last  winter  season  presented  little  change  with  only  2%  of strawberries and 25% of  cut  flowers of  the  total pre‐blockade potential  for export.

[…]Since January 2009, fishers’ access to fishing grounds has been further restricted to 3 nautical miles (nm) from the shore. This has resulted in a depletion of catches and revenues.

In Gaza, the majority of profits from fishing come from sardines, however, schools of sardine pass beyond the 3 nm mark and sardine catches are down 72%.

Adult  fish are mostly  found beyond  the 3 nm  limit and  therefore  fishing within  the current  zone  rapidly  depletes new  generations of  fish, with  severe  implications  for fish life‐cycles and therefore long‐term fishing livelihoods. (The previous fishing zone was 6‐9 nm before  ‘Cast Lead’, 12 nm from Bertini Commitments, and 20 nm under the Oslo Accords.

A World Bank report from 2008 indicates that “according to business associations in Gaza, the current restrictions have led to the suspension of 96% of Gaza’s industrial operations.”

Most Gazan industries are export-oriented and have purchase and supply contracts with Israeli and other firms. Gazan manufacturers rely almost entirely on imports for their inputs and until recently, about 76% of their furniture products, 90% of their garments and 20% of their food products were exported to Israel, and some to the West Bank.

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