Palestinian families at risk of being forced to leave homes

Our new research warns that intolerable living conditions are driving families living in areas of the Occupied Palestinian Territory that the UN identifies as 'high risk' to abandon their land and homes, even though most will be worse off once they do so.

Families living in 'high risk' areas, which include most of the rural West Bank and Gaza border area or 'buffer zone', face hardships such as daily shortages of food and water, high unemployment, insecurity, separation from families and access to schooling. Palestinians living in these areas are also poorer, less protected and more vulnerable than anywhere else in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Almost half of Palestinians living in 'high-risk' areas in OPT have been forced from their homes since 2000, the last major period of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. House demolitions and the loss of income and sources of livelihoods are common triggers that lead them to move. More than half of those affected are children. 78% of displaced families said they wanted to return to their homes.

Other research findings:

- Only 37% of people living in high-risk areas have enough to eat, compared with 70% of people living elsewhere.

- In the surveyed areas of the West Bank, 92% of families have no access to healthcare, compared to 34% in the rest of the occupied territory. These families also face forced evictions, land confiscation threats and lack of access to essential services.

- Only 2% of people in the surveyed areas of the West Bank have access to sanitation, compared with 61% outside the area.

- In Gaza, only 9% of families living in or near the Buffer Zone said they felt safe and secure, compared with 55% outside of the area. Concerns for personal security and safety have caused families to move away from their communities.

- "We always knew that life was tough in these areas, but this new research has shown just how bad things are. Many families we spoke to were at breaking point," says Salam Kanaan, Country Director for Save the Children UK in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Humanitarian aid not reaching those in need

The research also reveals that international organizations are not reaching those most in need. Movement and access restrictions, as well as difficulties coordinating with Israeli authorities, are the major obstacles to getting help through.

"It's unacceptable that so little real assistance is getting through when children are at such high risk. The humanitarian community, development agencies and the Palestinian Authority must make these vulnerable communities an urgent priority through a comprehensive and co-ordinated response," Kanaan continued.

Save the Children UK urges the State of Israel to halt actions that result in the displacement of Palestinians, including the demolition of Palestinian homes, and to clearly define a policy for the Gaza buffer zone that is in line with its international legal obligations to protect civilians under occupation.

Read the full report.