Middle East: Politics and Government

International Development written question – answered on 22nd October 2008.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent assessment he has made of the humanitarian situation in (a) the west bank and (b) the Gaza strip.

Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander The Secretary of State for International Development

We remain concerned about the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and continue to monitor it closely.

In Gaza, 69 per cent. of the population receive some form of food aid. Over 95 per cent. of businesses have closed and unemployment is over 45 per cent.. Health and educational services are under severe strain and the economy has been severely affected by crossing restrictions. Since the ceasefire began in June there have been some improvements. For example, projects to repair sewage treatment facilities have restarted and fuel supplies to the Gaza power plant have increased. However, the overall flow of humanitarian supplies, commercial goods and people into Gaza has only improved marginally.

In the west bank, 25 per cent. of the population is affected by food insecurity and unemployment is over 16 per cent. Due to falling incomes and continuing rises in food prices, people in the west bank now spend 56 per cent. of their income on food. Movement and access restrictions continue to hold back economic growth and to affect the daily life of ordinary Palestinians. In August, the United Nations counted 630 physical obstacles such as roadblocks and checkpoints in the west bank. This is almost 68 per cent. higher than when the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access was signed.

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