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Source: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
27 August 2007




Overview - Key Issues
Continued closure of Gaza crossings; impact on economy

Since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in mid-June, the main Gaza crossings have been closed due to the breakdown in previous coordination procedures between Israelis and Palestinians. The closures have further weakened the Gazan economy and exacerbated poverty in a population where 1.1 million out of 1.4 million were already receiving food assistance prior to mid-June.

Karni, the only viable crossing for the passage of commercial and humanitarian goods, remains closed after ten weeks. Sufa and Kerem Shalom crossings, continue to function as the principal alternative entry points for commercial and humanitarian supplies, but lack sufficient infrastructure to be a viable alternative crossing.

During the month of July, an average of 101 truckloads/day (excluding aggregates) have been allowed into Gaza through Sufa and 15 truckloads/day through Kerem Shalom, as opposed to an average of 264 truckloads/day at the highest point prior to mid-June (April 2007)1. At the same time, raw materials for the Gaza manufacturing plants and exports have beem banned. In the second quarter of 2007, unemployment rate reached 32% in Gaza, and poverty was estimated at 79% by the end of 2006. Both figures are expected to rise further with the continued embargo on Gaza.

Impact on the private sector:

The private sector has felt the impact of the closures to the greatest extent. The total accumulative and direct losses of the private sector since the closure of the Gaza border in mid-June has been estimated at $35 million, with a daily loss range of about $0.5 million2. In the industrial sector, the vast majority (nearly 90%) of import-dependent industries have closed down. Over 66,000 workers have been temporarily laid off. The most affected industries are the garment, furniture and construction sectors.The World Bank estimates that if a third of workers recently laid off do not return to work, the unemployment rate might reach to unprecedented levels of about 44%.

Impact on the agricultural sector:

The agricultural sector, which employs 40,000 workers and supports 25% of the Gaza population, has also been impacted by the closure of Karni crossing. Gazan farmers are uncertain whether to invest in the upcoming agricultural season, given the lack of raw materials needed for planting (seedlings, fertilizers and pesticides) and the uncertainty of being able to export their crops. In addition, since exports have been stopped, thousands of tons of produce are held up in Gaza and are being sold on local markets instead. The surplus of export products in the local markets has resulted in a sharp reduction in return.

The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza estimates losses of at least $4.5 million since the closure and a total loss this season of more than $12 million if the closure continues.

Shortage of certain critical drugs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

During July, there was a shortage of some critical drugs, including medications for patients who have undergone kidney transplantation.These medications are expensive and unaffordable by most patients. Psychiatric medications are also unavailable in some of the West Bank governorates.

UNRWA hospitalization crisis

The UNRWA medical department in the West Bank has financial difficulties when the budget of hospitalization was cut by 500,0000 $ in 2007. In response to the situation, UNRWA had to suspend a number of essential medical services. UNRWA also had to suspend hospitalization extensions beyond 10 days to all patients including neonates, reduce the coverage of cardiac catheterization from 70% to 50%, increase the contribution of social hardship cases to 10% in lieu of 5%, postponed cold surgical cases and not approves self-referred cases if admission exceeded 48 hours without approval of Area Health Officers.

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