Al Mezan publishes its annual report on the situation of economic, social and cultural rights in 2019 – Occupied Palestinian Territory
The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights published its annual report on the situation of economic, social and cultural rights in the Gaza Strip in 2019. The report documents the deterioration of humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip over the course of the last year. While the ongoing Israeli blockade for 14 years and repeated military offensives are the main factors in such a deterioration, a number of mutually reinforcing elements have exacerbated the situation in Gaza, namely intra-Palestinian divisions and the lack of government intervention to remedy the situation.
According to the report, the above-mentioned factors constitute significant obstacles to the ability of some two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights; severely compromised their access to key services, such as health care, energy, education, water and sanitation; and weighed heavily on the economy as the Strip’s gross domestic product (GDP) continued to contract.
The main findings of the report are reflected in the following indicators:
The production rate declined in the industrial sector, particularly in the specialized industries sub-sector which used only a quarter of its potential production capacity. The number of factories closed due to the deteriorating economic situation over the past decade increased to 534 manufacturing plants by the end of 2019.
Gaza’s lumber, textile and plastics industries have suffered a notable drop in production capacity: only 100 of 600 carpentry and furniture companies are still operating; textile production capacity hovers around 20 percent; and plastics factories can only meet 40% of local demand, up from 80% before the Israeli blockade. The gap between exports and imports remained large in 2019. Excluding fuel tankers imported into the Gaza Strip, for 95 trucks of imports and humanitarian aid, only three trucks of export left Gaza (mainly to the West Bank and, to a lesser extent, Israel and other countries).
The agricultural sector’s contribution to GDP before the Israeli military offensive of 2008-2009 was 7.7 percent. In 2019, however, it fell to 5.02%.
The Gaza Electricity Distribution Corporation (GEDC) estimates the demand for electricity in the Gaza Strip at around 622 megawatts during peak hours. In 2019, the average power supply stood at around 200 megawatts, leaving Gaza with a shortfall of 68% of its demand. The chronic electricity crisis is a serious obstacle to the main engines of socio-economic growth.
Unemployment and food insecurity rates reached 45 and 69 percent, respectively. The poverty rate rose to 53%, negatively impacting the GDP per capita which contracted by 2.8%, reaching US $ 1,417.
Despite the increased demand for social services, the Ministry of Social Development has reduced the number of eligible beneficiaries compared to 2018. The referred patients submitted 24,052 requests to the Israeli authorities to obtain the required permits issued by Israel to leave Gaza. for medical care, 35% of which was either refused or excessively delayed. This hampered the access of thousands of Gazans to medical care and resulted in the deaths of a woman and a child in 2019. Pollution worsened as raw or partially treated sewage continued to drip. to be pumped into the sea; 44.5% of the sea water in the Gaza Strip is believed to be contaminated.
The electricity crisis and the resulting deterioration in living standards have hampered the population’s access to sufficient desalinated water at affordable prices, and the rate of water consumption per capita. in Gaza fell below minimum international standards. About 13,000 homes that were partially damaged before the 2014 military offensive on Gaza remained unrepaired, and only 11.4% of the 3,374 homes that were destroyed after the offensive have been rebuilt.
The average class size has increased to 39 students in Ministry of Education schools and 41 students in UNRWA schools.
The indicators showed an alarming drop in the number of teachers in the public education sector despite the increase in the number of students. The number of public school teachers increased from 11,380 in 2019/2018 to 11,062 teachers in 2019/2020. Only 254 books were deposited with the Ministry of Culture for registration in 2019, up from 341 in 2018. The figures presented in the report underscore the need for immediate action to improve the situation in the Gaza Strip. In conclusion, Al Mezan made a number of recommendations and calls to action to the international community and Palestinian officials:
To the international community:
The international community must honor its moral and legal obligations by intervening quickly and effectively to lift the closure and the blockade, and pressure the Israeli authorities to comply with the rules of international humanitarian and human rights law. To this end, the international community must take steps to ensure accountability.
Al Mezan calls on the international community to intervene to resolve the electricity crisis and support local efforts to preserve the environment. This can be done by funding projects for wastewater treatment, seawater desalination and environmental development and sustainability, in addition to supporting relevant existing projects.
The international community must promote international cooperation to resolve the multifaceted problems facing the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. When contributing to humanitarian and development actions, the international community must prioritize actions that tackle the factors of economic growth to thwart an impending humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip.
To Palestinian bondholders:
All Palestinian political actors must work together to end the internal division and stop politicizing public services. In addition, Al Mezan calls for respect for the rule of law, the maintenance of the separation of powers and the strengthening of the financial and institutional independence of the judiciary. In addition, presidential and parliamentary elections must be held to restore the legitimacy of branches of government and grant citizens the right to choose their representatives.
The Palestinian authorities must end the duality of the political system and put in place a comprehensive plan to counter the crises facing the people of Gaza, a plan that would ensure the protection and promotion of economic, social and cultural rights, including payment of salaries of civil servants in accordance with the law.
Al Mezan urges government officials to create new jobs in the understaffed health and education sectors, and to base employment primarily on competence and integrity.
New financial policies must be developed to support the private sectors. Government institutions should allow grace periods for loan and tax repayments, and reduce public service costs.
Authorities should mobilize support and allocate emergency resources to municipalities to ensure the delivery of essential services in critical sectors, such as water and sanitation, which play a critical role in improving the environment in difficulty and the supply of drinking water to residential buildings.
More plans and projects to improve access to safe drinking water need to be developed, and all charges for water supply services need to be made affordable.
The full report is available (in Arabic) at http://mezan.org/post/30905