6 April 2005 – Around half of the Palestinian population was living below the official poverty line last year, more than double the number in 2000, unemployment increased, and there is no hope for improvement unless guarded optimism on the political front is translated into economic activity, according to the latest United Nations review.
“The humanitarian situation in 2004 remained vulnerable,” the report said, noting that Israeli-Palestinian violence continued throughout the year and there was no significant easing of the underlying causes of the crisis – the closure system of checkpoints and roadblocks established by Israel to safeguard its citizens.
The study, based primarily on a compilation of UN agency findings and field work by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory, is an updated version of a report submitted to a committee of key international donors in November 2004 by UN organizations.
It found that about half the population was living below the poverty line of $2.10 per day, compared to just 22 per cent four years earlier, with some 560,000 people – 16 per cent – mired in deep poverty.
Palestinians continued to face problems reaching their places of work, schools and hospitals, and standards of health and education continued to deteriorate, it added. In some parts of the territory, Palestinians' needs for additional humanitarian assistance rose sharply as a consequence.
It noted that a guarded optimism was evident early this year as a result of a successful election process and the smooth transition to a new president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud Abbas, after the death of Yasser Arafat.
“The PA was making detailed plans for transition from crisis to recovery. This transition is crucial: Palestinians depend heavily on external assistance, and the PA and donors must consider how to ensure that humanitarian assistance does not become a structural feature of the Palestinian economy,” it said.
“Yet transition will not be possible unless conflict eases and access both within the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and to external areas improves, and conditions are created for normal economic activity.
“Even if rapid progress is made on the political front, unless this is translated into improvements in access, emergency humanitarian assistance continues to remain necessary at current levels to prevent a further decline in the humanitarian situation,” it added.