“Unliveable” by 2020: The bleak reality of life in the Gaza Strip

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In 2012, a UN report warned that the Gaza Strip would be “unliveable” by 2020. Since the report, Gaza’s 2 million residents have experienced eight more years of brutal siege and two major military assaults, killing and injuring thousands of people.

We are six months in to 2020, and more than 90% of Gaza’s drinking water remains unfit for human consumption, health services are at breaking point and poverty continues to increase. Most families in the Gaza Strip have experienced loss, death, injury or displacement, and many see no end to their suffering in sight. The truth is that for many, the Gaza Strip became unliveable many years ago.

Every child under the age of 14 in Gaza was born into siege and has witnessed three major military assaults.  “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014 killed 2,251 Palestinians, 551 of whom were children. 18,000 housing units were damaged or destroyed.

The 2014 assault on Gaza has left many severely traumatised- particularly children. Mahmoud, 13, from Khan Yunis is one of the thousands of children who has only ever known life under siege.

“Being homeless for so long has traumatised me,” he tells us, while explaining how the coronavirus crisis is bringing even more uncertainty and fear into his young life; “I’ve had psychological problems and I haven’t been able to go to school. It scares me to even think about what will happen to me and my family if the virus spreads across Gaza.”

The Gaza Strip is without a doubt an unliveable place, and the trauma that children like Mahmoud are facing is worsened by the knowledge that the future prospects for Palestinian children are poor- up to 70% of young adults in Gaza are unemployed, while almost half of the population survives on less then $5.50 a day.

Since March 2018, Palestinian civil society have been protesting for an end to the blockade and the right to return to the land of their ancestors. The Israeli military has responded to their weekly protests with live ammunition, killing 326 individuals and injuring more than 35,000 by the end of 2019.

It is hard to describe an environment that is worse than “unliveable”, but this is precisely where the Gaza Strip is heading, if it hasn’t already done so. With UNRWA funding cuts and the Covid-19 pandemic deepening the economic crisis, the lives of many could be pushed into complete destitution.

While it is true that the Palestinian people have shown extraordinary resilience in the face of the ongoing violations of their human rights, the everyday reality of life in the Gaza Strip is undeniably bleak. Without the support of the international community- it will remain so. Those in power need to realise that we all see the injustices that Palestinians are facing. We must all demand that their rights to dignity and security are met.