Gazans Brace for Ramadan Austerity
GAZA CITY — With a heavy heart and a deep sense of desperation due to Western economic “blockade,” Gazans are receiving the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which is only two weeks away.
“Ramadan is knocking at the door while Gaza is still teetering under a crippling economic blockade,” resident Salem told IslamOnline.net Monday, September 4.
“We no longer feel the joy of Ramadan as we have been unpaid for six months, the crossings are closed and the economic blockade lingers one,” desperate Salem added.
Around 160,000 civil servants and security officers have not been paid for months because of the Western aid freeze.
Israel has also suspended the monthly payment of customs duties, worth more than 50 million dollars, it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority on goods that transit through its territory.
This is affecting the livelihoods of around one million people or a quarter of the population of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
“No people on this Earth have gone through such deplorable living conditions,” fumed Salem, a government employee.
“We are mainly preoccupied with how we will provide for our families during this month, which also coincides with the new academic year,” he said.
Thousands of Palestinians teachers joined Saturday, September 2, a general strike in protest at being unpaid for the past six months.
Unemployment stands at around 45 percent and the World Bank has estimated that two-thirds of the Gaza Strip population (1.4 million) lives under the poverty line, earning less than two dollars a day.
A UN report said last month that more than 70 percent of the Gazans were now reliant on emergency assistance to meet daily food needs, while prices of essential goods had risen by between 15 and 33 percent.
The US-led economic blockade on the Palestinians – in force since March when the Hamas-led government assumed office – has also taken its toll on students whose parents can no longer afford education fees and increasing demands of their children.
“It really drives me crazy,” said Ragab, another government employee. “I can’t afford education fees of my eight siblings.”
“I wished I would be able to fulfill my children’s demands,” lamented his colleague Nahedd Farag.
Some Palestinians, however, have looked at the full half of the cup.
“Our situation is very difficult, however, we should rally behind the government and stop this strike,” said Rami.
UN relief coordinator Jan Egeland on Friday, September 1, warned that the situation in the Gaza Strip was a “ticking time bomb” and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) warned that the Palestinian economy was collapsing due to the West’s aid cutoff.