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Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 01:08 GMT
Palestinians 'sink into extreme poverty'
Palestinian schoolchildren throwing stones at a roadblock
Poverty has as much effect on Palestinians as violence

The charity Christian Aid has published a report describing what it calls the situation of extreme poverty into which most Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are sinking.

Palestinian children in the rubble of house
Children are especially affected
It says almost three-quarters of the population are living on less than $2 a day and one-quarter of all children are anaemic.

Christian Aid says Israel's military occupation is mainly responsible for the crisis and called on Western countries to put pressure on Israel to withdraw to the positions it held before September 2000.

The growth of acute poverty among the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has as much impact on their daily lives as the violence which grabs the international headlines, it adds.

Decades-long crisis

Christian Aid gives examples of how the security situation is affecting the economy, saying that farmers are seeing their olive and citrus groves destroyed by Israeli tanks and bulldozers and traders are unable to move from village to village because of travel restrictions and curfews.

Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron
The charity says Israel must withdraw its forces for conditions to improve

The report also says long-term development work by outside organisations has become all but impossible in the current climate.

Christian Aid places most of the blame squarely on the Israeli military occupation, which came about following the Palestinian uprising of September 2000.

However it says the crisis has roots going back decades, in the loss of land suffered by Palestinian families, the building of Jewish settlements, and in the unequal distribution of water.

Calls for sovereignty

The charity also accuses the Palestinian Authority of corruption, inefficiency and of failing to tackle poverty.

Christian Aid sees little chance of an improvement in the situation unless Israel is persuaded to withdraw its forces to the positions they held before the uprising.

It has called for the Palestinian Authority to be given sovereignty over its own areas, and for the establishment of a forum to allocate water rights more equitably.

The problem is that these are exactly the measures that can only come about once meaningful peace talks begin - and there is little sign of that at present.


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