The PCBS figures released in April 2002 indicate that more than two-thirds of Palestinian households were living below the poverty line (1651 NIS, approximately US$340/month) in the first two months of the year 2002. In the West Bank, 57.8% of households were below the poverty line, while in the Gaza Strip the figure reached 84.6%.
Translating these figures into an individual level, more than two-thirds of the Palestinian population is living on less that $1.90 a day.
DCI/PS stresses that these figures indicate a disproportionate affect of poverty on children for three reasons:
1) More than half of Palestinian society is children. 53% of the Palestinian population is below the age of 18 years.
2) Moreover, fifty percent of Palestinians live in households of 9 members or more while the mean household size is about 7.0 persons. Mean household size is slightly higher in Gaza (7.8) than in the West Bank (6.6) persons. For this reason, high poverty rates in the Gaza Strip indicate that a greater proportion of children are living in poverty.
3) The areas most affected by Israeli closure also have the highest number of children. In Gaza City for example, more than half of the population is aged between 0-14 years old. In Khan Yunis refugee camp in the south of the Gaza Strip, 49.9% of the population is aged 14 years or younger. These areas are also the most severely affected by Israeli closure policies. Consequently, in both these areas unemployment amongst the adult population reaches 1/3 of the active labor force.
The PCBS statistics indicate that more than half of Palestinian households have lost more than 50% of their income since September 2000. Due to the youthful nature of the Palestinian population, the fact that larger family sizes are generally correlated with lower incomes and the almost completely dependent nature of Palestinian children, it can be assumed that the majority of these "new poor" are children.
The consequences of this massive deterioration in the economic situation on children is reaching catastrophic proportions. PCBS statistics indicate that there has been a large decline in the nutritional levels of families because of the loss of purchasing power. Children are also being forced into the labor force in dangerous conditions (working "illegally" for Israeli employers inside Israel or in Israeli settlements), or, as is noticeable from a walk through any Palestinian town there is a large increase in the number of children peddling goods on the streets.
DCI/PS stresses that this economic war against Palestinian children is a direct violation of Israel's responsibilities under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that entered into force in 1991 following Israel's ratification of the CRC. Article 27, paragraph 1, of the CRC recognizes, "... the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development." Paragraph 2 of the same article indicates that the "primary responsibility" for this well being lies in the hands of parents. The systematic destruction of the Palestinian economy thus violates the CRC, Article 27, paragraph 3 that states, "States Parties... shall take appropriate measures to assist parents and others responsible for the child to implement this right."
Measures of collective punishment such as closures, curfews and blockades of Palestinian cities are the direct cause of the precipitous decline in the Palestinian economic situation. As DCI/PS has repeatedly pointed out, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is not merely a soldier holding a gun, but rather is a unified system of political and economic control backed by a military power. Palestinian children constitute the primary victims of this illegal occupation.