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Clare Short to help launch Palestinian poverty report

The Secretary of State for International Development, Clare Short, will speak at the launch of Christian Aid's major new report on Palestinian poverty in the House of Lords on 29 January 2003.
This disturbing report, Losing Ground: Israel, Poverty and the Palestinians, examines in detail how Israel's occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has been the primary cause of the destruction of the Palestinian economy. It calls for full Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and for international monitors to oversee the process.

'The Palestinians are currently living in a state of extreme, worsening poverty and fear for their future,' says William Bell, co-author of the report and Christian Aid's Policy Officer for Palestine and Israel. 'Almost three quarters of Palestinians now live on less than US$2 a day - below the United Nations poverty line.

'The international community must either find the political will to tackle this situation, or witness a further descent into abject poverty, despair and hopelessness - a potent mix that will blight the lives of millions of people for years to come.'

The report details how, in the ten years of the Oslo peace process, living standards have worsened for almost all Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Last year, due to Israeli closures of these regions, Palestinian earnings from agriculture fell by 70 per cent as farmers were unable to market their produce, for instance.

Doctors report clear growth in important indicators of poverty - including child malnutrition, anaemia in pregnant women and a sharp increase in numbers of underweight babies. Stress-related conditions such as heart disease and hypertension have also increased. Since the beginning of the second intifada, in September 2000, new cases at mental health clinics have grown by 100 per cent - alarmingly, most of these cases are children.

Christian Aid recognises that the Palestinian Authority has failed to tackle poverty among Palestinians. The report calls on the international community to support reforms of the Palestinian Authority in order to serve the interests of the Palestinian people.

Christian Aid unreservedly condemns suicide bombings and all other attacks on civilians, Israeli or Palestinian. Israel's right to recognition and to safety for all its citizens, as well as its right to economic development, is not in question. Christian Aid believes that the Palestinian people should also be afforded that right.

Notes to Editors

1. Losing Ground will be launched at 1pm in the Moses Room, the House of Lords. Journalists are invited to attend and copies of the report will be available.

2. Representatives from Christian Aid's partners including the Middle East Council of Churches (Gaza), Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees, Women's Affairs Centre (Gaza) and the Israeli human rights organisation, B'Tselem will attend the launch and will be available for interview.

3. Christian Aid has worked in the Middle East for fifty years.

Journalists: For more information, or if you wish to attend the launch of Losing Ground, please contact John Davison in Christian Aid's press office on 020 7523 2175 or mobile 07802 502 155.