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Cablegate: Humanitarian Conditions in West Bank And

Published: Thu 11 Mar 2004 02:56 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 001546
SIPDIS
NEA FOR SATTERFIELD
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON KWBG IS ISRAELI PALESTINIAN AFFAIRS ECONOMY AND FINANCE HUMANITARIAN AID
SUBJECT: HUMANITARIAN CONDITIONS IN WEST BANK AND
GAZA: NOT GETTING ANY BETTER
This cable has been cleared by ConGen Jerusalem.
1. Summary: Overall, the humanitarian situation in
West Bank and Gaza (WB/G) has not improved. Despite
some minor improvements in mobility, the range of
socio-economic indicators remain dismal. Over 60
percent of the WB/G population live below the poverty
line; Unemployment rates as of fourth quarter 2003,
under ILO standards, were 20.7 percent for West Bank
and 31.9 percent for Gaza. If we include "discouraged
workers", the rates climb to 27.8 percent for the West
Bank and 37.2 percent for Gaza, according to the World
Bank. According to a recent WFP/FAO survey, 41
percent of Gazans and 39 percent of West Bankers
suffer from food insecurity. The GOI has allowed
Gazans to work in Israel, despite a series of recent
terrorist attacks at Erez crossing and has
consistently re-opened the crossing to laborers after
very brief closings following these incidents. Access
to agricultural lands, however, remains problematic,
despite some recent minor improvements in the West
Bank. In Gaza, however, farmers have reported more,
not fewer, problems in accessing their fields.
2. In the realm of health, there has been a positive
trend of improved access for ambulances and emergency
medical teams. However, there still are far too many
delays. The lack of financial resources means that
many families forego routine and preventative medical
care. In general, international staff members of
relief agencies have been able to travel to and from
the West Bank and Gaza. Due to recent attacks at
Erez, there are however, serious delays in gaining
access to Gaza. However, there have been no
improvements in the ability of these agencies to
deliver services to enclosed communities in Gaza and
the GOI has yet to fullfill its long outstanding
committment to allow direct food delivery into El-
Mowassi. End Summary.
--------------------------------------------- ---------
Checkpoints/ General Movement: Too Many and Not Enough
--------------------------------------------- ---------
3. In general, there has been a marginal improvement
in mobility in the West Bank and Gaza for people and
goods, including workers. However, these modest
improvements have not been enough to impact socio-
economic conditions, and are unlikely to positively
influence any of the broad health and humanitarian
indicators - acute and chronic nutrition, food
security, unemployment, poverty levels. The GOI has
claimed it has removed 22 internal manned West Bank
checkpoints, while the Office of Coordination of
Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) could only confirm
nine. OCHA reported that nearly 600 concrete road
barriers and earth mounds continue to restrict travel
on internal West Bank roads. Flying-checkpoints in
the West Bank are an almost daily occurrence. In
Gaza, North-South travel has in general been possible
with fewer delays at Abu Khouli checkpoint. Travel,
however, to and from enclosed communities such as El-
Mowassi and Seafa remains extremely restricted.
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Land Confiscations/Demolitions Continue
---------------------------------------
4. Land confiscations, leveling, and demolitions all
continue in both the West Bank and Gaza. These
actions are associated mostly with construction of the
separation barrier in the West Bank; while in Gaza
they are prompted by enhancement to security
perimeters and infrastructure near settlements.
--------------------------------------------- ---------
High but Stabilized Unemployment/ Improved Access to
Agricultural Lands
--------------------------------------------- ---------
5. As of fourth quarter 2003, unemployment rates (ILO
definition) stood at 20.7 percent for the West Bank
and 31.9 percent for Gaza. While this is an
improvement over the peak Intifada unemployment rates
registered in second quarter of 2002 (WB 31.4 percent;
Gaza 42 percent), the numbers are still drastically
higher than pre-Intifada numbers of 7.5 percent for
the West Bank and 15.4 percent for Gaza. With
population growth at 4.3 percent per year, dependency
ratios - the total population divided by the number of
employed persons - have increased significantly over
the Intifada period. In the third quarter of 2000,
each job holder in the West Bank was supporting 4.3
persons, by the fourth quarter of 2003, each employed
person was supporting 5.4 persons. In Gaza, the
dependency ratio increased more dramatically, from 5.9
to 7.7.
6. Gazans working in Israel continue to hover in the
10,000/day range. Recent terrorism attacks at Erez
have resulted in the crossing being closed for only
small periods of time - one or two days - before
workers were allowed to resume crossing into Israel.
Overall, according to a World Bank/PCBS study
conducted over the past four months, Gazans who have
jobs report "few" or "no" problems in accessing their
places of employment. (Note: It is not clear if Gazan
respondents include both those employed in Israel and
within Gaza, or just the latter. End Note.) West
Bankers reported greater difficulties with the average
falling between "few problems" and "difficult."
Nablus has reported the most difficulty. There, fully
35 percent of those employed said they found it "very
difficult" or "impossible" to reach their places of
employment in the January survey.
7. Roughly one third of the households in the West
Bank and 15 percent in Gaza have agricultural land
that they cultivate. In World Bank/PCBS surveys
conducted over the past four months, West Bank
households reported a slight improvement in access to
that land, while in Gaza the trend was negative.
Overall, West Bankers still report more difficulties
in accessing farmland, than do Gazans.
--------------------------------------------- ---------
Food Security: International Assistance Averts a
Catastrophe
--------------------------------------------- ---------
8. The donor community has managed to reduce global
acute malnutrition through massive amounts of food
assistance, technical support and awareness raising
with the Ministry of Health. However, there have
not/not been significant improvements in overall food
security which exists when people have physical and
economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious
food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences
for an active and healthy life. A recent FAO/WFP Food
Security and Vulnerability Profiling Assessment
concluded that 41 percent of Gazans and 39 percent of
West Bankers suffer from food insecurity. The
majority of cases in the West Bank were reported along
the route of the separation barrier. In a pilot study
examining coping strategies, WFP reported that 89
percent of its beneficiaries said they frequently or
always consume less quality and variety of food; 63
percent limit the portions of meals; 56 percent forego
health and education expenses; and 55 percent reduce
the meals of adults in favor of children. The survey
also concluded that among WFP beneficiaries,
humanitarian assistance is the main/main source of
income in the Gaza Strip, whereas in the West Bank, it
remains employment and casual labor.
--------------------------------
Health Access: The Worst is Over
--------------------------------
9. OCHA reported that medical staff and patients
continue to face checkpoint delays of up to four
hours. There have, however, been fewer cases of
ambulances being denied access altogether, under
"normal" conditions. During periods of major clashes,
OCHA reported that the coordination mechanisms between
Israelis and Palestinians tend to break down,
resulting in serious delays. Since the beginning of
the year, there have been 12 incidents where
ambulances and medical teams have been denied access;
and 45 incidents in which medical personnel were
delayed from 40 minutes up to four hours.
10. Access to routine medical care is less
problematic than access to emergency services. In
joint surveys carried out by the World Bank and PCBS
over the past four months, for the approximately 70
percent of households in Gaza reporting a need for
medical attention, most said that access to that care
posed "few problems." In the West Bank, access was
more problematic, with West Bank village residents
reporting the most difficulty in accessing care; and
camp residents reporting the least problems, probably
due to the existence of UNRWA clinics in the camps.
Financial wherewithal remains a key determinant to
whether a family receives routine and preventative
health care in both Gaza and the West Bank, but this
factor is more pronounced in Gaza.
--------------------------------------------- ---------
Access for Relief Agencies: Okay in the West Bank -
Problematic in Gaza
--------------------------------------------- ---------
11. International organizations and NGOs are not
generally encountering major obstacles delivering
services in the West Bank. Access to and from Gaza
has been difficult lately as a result of a series of
recent terrorist attacks at Erez crossing. Currently,
internationals are not allowed to bring cars into
Gaza. We have heard informally that access to
vehicles will be restored by the end of the week.
12. However, NGOs and international organizations
continue to face more systematic access problems in
delivering services to enclosed communities in Gaza --
El-Mowassi and Seafa. Despite numerous pledges,
commitments, and meetings dating back over one year,
the GOI has still failed to allow UNRWA and WFP to
make direct food deliveries to El-Mowassi for example.
13. The GOI has recently issued some permits to local
Palestinian staff members of UN organizations.
However, there is still room for improvement in this
regard.
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