oPt

OPT: Back to work - earning a living in a shattered economy

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Neil Briscoe, Head - Gaza Unit, DFID Jerusalem:

During April 2007, just before the blockade of Gaza came into effect, over 1,300 trucks per week were entering Gaza from Israel on average. Today, the usual weekly figure is less than 500. Exports have dried up almost completely - only 14 truckloads have been permitted to leave Gaza so far this year.

Unemployment now stands at over 40% - more than 120,000 people have lost their jobs since the beginning of the blockade. With the formal economy shrinking, the opportunity to earn a decent living is simply not a realistic prospect for many Gazans, although the need has never been greater given the effects of recent conflict and with winter winds and rain now setting in.

As Head of the Gaza Unit, my focus is on affording the people of Gaza a degree of dignity by getting the right support to those who need it. Part of this means that we focus on those people without an income who simply cannot afford to adequately feed, clothe and house their families, even if the items they need are available.

DFID has been helping to provide the basics to those without the means to acquire them. Our funding has helped to provide food for nearly a million people, for example. But we recognise that one of the best ways we can assist ordinary Gazans suffering from the indignity of being unable to provide for their families is by creating opportunities for meaningful employment.

Through NGOs like Oxfam, ACF, Islamic Relief and CHF, DFID has been supporting cash-for-work initiatives, including rubble-removal and road rebuilding activities. Nearly 18,000 families have directly benefited from the resulting income.

Of course, we understand that this sort of work is not a long-term solution, and across the UK government we are also working tirelessly to address the underlying causes of these problems. But this work does make a very real difference to the everyday lives of many Gazan families. We remain fully committed to this and are deeply grateful to all those members of NGOs and UN agencies who are helping us deliver our assistance on the ground.