Growing crisis in Palestine

Palestinian civil servants scuffle with security and lawmakers as they interrupt in protest a session of the Palestinian Legislative Council in the West Bank town of Ramallah June 14, 2006. Dozens of Palestinian civil servants stormed a parliamentary session on Wednesday to protest against the non-payment of salaries. (MaanImages/Mushir Abdelrahman)

Trócaire’s local partner in Jerusalem is appealing urgently for over 1.5 million euro to help Palestinians scrape by as salaries at the Palestinian Authority, which provides jobs for more than 150,000 people, go unpaid. The salaries have been frozen since Hamas won the January elections, prompting Israel and international donors to withhold funds destined for the new government.

Those government employees directly or indirectly support a quarter of the entire Palestinian population of 1.3 million people. Other international organisations and donors also halted direct funding of the Palestinian Authority.

Citing security concerns, Israel has also tightened restrictions on transport to and from the Palestinian territories, especially the Gaza Strip. Throughout January and February, Palestinians in Gaza didn’t even have enough bread to eat, as grain was blocked at the Karni crossing and flourmills shut down. Many people haven’t eaten meat in months, and even cheaper poultry remains inaccessible as prices soar due to mass cullings to prevent the spread of avian influenza.

About 40 per cent of children in Gaza already suffer from malnutrition because of the area’s absolute poverty. Fresh milk and baby formula have also practically disappeared, with the only available option the less nutritious powdered milk.

Although transport of goods into the Gaza Strip has increased in recent weeks, exports for the most part are still blocked at the Karni crossing, where fresh fruits and vegetables, one of the main sources of income for Palestinians, have been left to rot.

The Caritas Jerusalem project, supported by Trócaire will run for nine months, providing food, clothing, household supplies, and covering the utilities expenses and rents for people in the most desperate of circumstances. They will also help those who can no longer pay school or university fees to continue their educations, one of the only means to escape poverty.

People who cannot afford urgent medical treatment, especially when it is not available in the Palestinian territories, will be helped to access health services through a network of medical facilities for those who can no longer pay for treatment.

In addition, Caritas will launch a job creation scheme, employing people in painting or maintenance work for school and medical buildings. In some cases, they hope to be able to create long-term employment for people living in a situation where few jobs are to be had. Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development, and social service organisations present in over 200 countries and territories, of which Trócaire is a member.

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