Robert Piper, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, has described current living conditions in the Gaza Strip — which continues to groan under a decade-long Israeli/Egyptian blockade — as "grim".
"Gaza continues to face difficult conditions even though the Palestinian people have great potential," Piper said during a Wednesday visit to Gaza City's Islamic University, according to a statement issued by the university.
"Despite the large number of educated people in Gaza, there are few employment opportunities for university graduates," he said.
"The high unemployment rate poses a serious challenge," he added.
Piper urged the international community to promote development inside the beleaguered coastal enclave and praised the Palestinian people for their ability to adapt to the difficult circumstances imposed by the siege.
Blockaded by air, land and sea since 2007, the Gaza Strip has seven border crossings linking it to the outside world. Six of these are controlled by Israel, while the seventh — the Rafah crossing — is controlled by Egypt, which continues to keep it sealed for the most part.
The siege of Gaza was first imposed after Palestinian resistance movement Hamas — after sweeping Palestinian legislative polls one year earlier — wrested control of the strip from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.