More than two million Palestinians in Gaza, including 1.4 million refugees, are living in "tragic" situations as a result of the 11-year Israeli siege on the enclave, the head of the Palestinian government's Information Office in Gaza, Salama Marouf, said yesterday.
In a press conference held in Gaza, Marouf said: "This siege has scarred many aspects of life."
"The humanitarian situation in Gaza deteriorated after the latest punitive measures imposed on the coastal enclave by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, including salary cuts, forcing public servants in to early retirement and halting payments to the health and education ministries in addition to other sectors."
Since April 2017, he said, the PA government in Ramallah cut 30 per cent of the salaries of Gaza employees. Last week workers received only 50 per cent of the outstanding payments due to them for the months of March and April.
Marouf said that 56.6 per cent of Gaza residents suffer food insecurity and 80 per cent are living below the poverty line. "About half of the residents of Gaza receive monthly food assistance from UNRWA," he said.
He condemned the PA's delay in paying social benefits in Gaza, which are estimated to amount to $9 million a month, noting that 72,000 families are benefit from this social scheme.
The official condemned the continuous closure of the Rafah Crossing, noting it was opened for only 39 days in 2017 and that 85 per cent of Gaza residents are unable to travel through the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing between Gaza and Israel, due to Israeli restrictions.
Marouf also said that 56 per cent of patients in urgent need of treatment abroad had not been allowed to travel through Erez.
In addition, he said: "The Ministry of Health in Gaza has reduced its capacity due to the lack of most of the basic needs for surgical operations and basic treatments. All of the unurgent surgeries – 4,000 — were suspended."
He also said that the unemployment rate had increased to 43.9 per cent in 2018, compared to 41.7 per cent in the same period of the previous year – this means that more than 28,000 people lost their jobs in Gaza.
"Imports decreased by 11.5 per cent in March and 38 per cent in April… The number of university students who are unable to pay their fees increased by 39 per cent," he said, noting that UNRWA's financial situation has also had a negative impact on life in Gaza.