Putting Faces to the Facts: The Last Five Years of the Gaza Blockade

This summer we have occasionally re-posted material from MCC colleagues
and partner organisations. This photo essay, by MCC Palestine service worker
Ryan Rodrick Beiler, was first published in the MCC Palestine Update.

A Palestinian worker scavenges for recyclable materials near the restricted access zone along the wall on Gaza’s northern border. Israeli troops often open fire on such workers and several have injured or killed. (photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

Five years ago, Israel intensified its blockade of Gaza as a form of “economic warfare”against the de facto Hamas government which controls the densely populated Palestinian enclave. As in all forms of warfare, civilians, especially children, suffer the worst consequences of actions taken by those in power. As part of a coordinated advocacy effort by the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), MCC has joined more than 50 other humanitarian NGOs in endorsing a simple statement:

For over five years in Gaza, more than 1.6 million people have been under blockade in violation of international law. More than half of these people are children. We the undersigned say with one voice: “end the blockade now.”

The United Nations also recently released a clear and concise fact sheet on the impact of the Gaza blockade. But while facts are important, it’s even more critical to remember that real people face these facts on a daily basis. So here are a few key selections from the UN report, accompanied by photos of Gazans struggling to overcome these conditions:

44% of Gazans are food insecure and about 80% are aid recipients.

Aysha Qaramesh and her son Ayman (6), beneficiaries in a food security project raising rabbits with MCC partner Al Najd Development Forum in the eastern border area of Gaza. (photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

34% of Gaza’s workforce, including over half its youth, is unemployed.

Mahmoud Abdim, age 20 (left), is a second year student studying to be an electrician through a vocational training center run by MCC partner, Near East Council of Churches Committee for Refugee Work (NECCCRW), in the Qarara area of Khan Younis, Gaza. Mahmoud did not finish secondary school in order to work to support his family which includes his parents, four brothers, and four sisters. (photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

During this period, nearly 2,300 Palestinians have been killed and 7,700 injured by Israeli forces, about two thirds of them during the “Cast Lead” offensive. Over a quarter (27%) of all Palestinian fatalities were women and children. Since June 2007, 37 Israelis have been killed and 380 injured in attacks launched from Gaza, 40% of whom were civilians.

Artwork by children at the Nuwar Center of MCC partner Culture and Free Thought Association depicts the bombardment of Gaza by Israeli helicopters. (photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

The productive capacity of Gaza’s economy has shown almost no recovery, rendering recent economic growth unsustainable. … The continued ban on the transfer of goods from Gaza to its traditional markets in the West Bank and Israel, along with the severe restrictions on access to agricultural land and fishing waters, prevents sustainable growth and perpetuates the high levels of unemployment, food insecurity and aid dependency.

(l-r) Khaled Albieri , his brother Ibrahim, and Mohammed Ashenbari use a pivot and levers to straighten iron reinforcement bars recovered from buildings bombed by Israel in Gaza City. Such recycling of building materials is necessary because of Israeli restrictions on goods entering Gaza. (photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

The quality of infrastructure and vital services, including in the areas of health, education and water and sanitation, have significantly declined as a result of the import restrictions and the rapid population growth. A failure to address existing gaps would increase the humanitarian vulnerability of the people. Despite the June 2010 measures to ease the blockade, international organisations continue to face challenges in responding to the most urgent humanitarian needs in these fields, due to the complex approval system for projects put in place by the Israeli authorities.

Zeina Mefij, age 1 month, bravely awaits the prick of a blood test administered by Nabila Adnan (left) and Sihan Abu Hasan as part of a well baby program at a medical clinic run by MCC partner NECCCRW in the Deraj neighborhood of Gaza City. (photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

Since 2009, the Israeli naval forces have prevented fishermen from accessing sea areas beyond three nautical miles from Gaza’s coast, where the main sardine shoals are found. This has severely undermined the livelihoods of 35,000 people.

Gazan fishermen cast their nets off Gaza’s Mediterranean coast near Gaza City. (photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

Farmland located within 500 meters from the perimeter fence is totally inaccessible, while access to areas up to 1500 meters is risky due to frequent ‘warning shots’ by the Israeli army.  An estimated 75,000 metric tonnes of produce are lost each year as result of limited access.

Farmer Nizar Abu-Halim of Beit Lahia points toward the northern border zone from among rows of strawberries on his farm supported by MCC partner Al Najd Development Forum. Smokestacks from a coal-fired power plant across the border in Ashkelon, Israel, are visible on the horizon. (photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

To learn more about AIDA’s campaign, click on the following links:

Press Release – International Pressure Mounts Over Gaza Blockade

5 Fallacies in Gaza and the Facts of Life 5 Years in to the Blockade: Trapped by Land, Air and Sea

5 Years Lost: Case studies looking back at life under blockade

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