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  • Max Hyman

Gaza. An Overcrowded Mess.

The Gaza Strip humanitarian crisis is currently, undoubtedly, the most severe problem in the region at this time. But rather than creating conclusions for you, I want to provide numbers and facts that represent the difficulty of everyday life in Gaza so you can make your own conclusions. This post is in no way solely Anti-Israeli for contributing to the problem or solely Anti-Palestinian for ignoring their own citizens, but rather is a representation of the ever-deepening affects of stubbornness to reach peace from the two entities on real lives. The allowance of an internationally recognized terrorist organization to rule almost 2 million people has created an enormous humanitarian crisis. If Israeli and Palestinian political leaders, including Hamas leaders, continue to be unable to make concessions in a compromising peace agreement, human rights abuses will continue to stack up.

The population of the Gaza Strip is approximately 1.82 million (as of 2014, the last total count, but rising by tens of thousands each year) in the span of just 140.9 square miles. Not only does the Strip in total have a population density similar to Boston, but the city of Gaza has approximately the same density as New York City, at around 26,424 residents EVERY SQUARE MILE. Over 50% of the population is under 18, which means that 1 million people are, right now, growing up under unbearable living conditions. How, under these conditions, could one not harbor hatred in their hearts, especially towards those they are told are at fault for such conditions (Israel)? 38% of the population lives in complete poverty, while 26% of the workforce is unemployed (including 38% of the entire youth). The average wage has declined by over 20% in the past 6 years, 54% of Gazans are food insecure, and over 75% are aid recipients. For a "fun" experiment, compare these percentages with those of your county or state. The difference, I can assure you, will be staggering.

35% of farmland and 85% of fishing waters that could be used to build the economy are inaccessible, thanks to the Israeli military. 50-80 million liters of sewage are dumped in the Mediterranean Sea every day, in an act that spreads the negative effects of insufficient waste management into 3 continents. Over 90% of the water in the Gaza aquifer (water source) is undrinkable. 1/3 of essential drugs are constantly out of stock. Real people are dying every day not as a combination of these problems, but often, only because of one. And there are far too many problems to tackle at the same time without solving political disagreements first.

Israel wields enormous power over Gaza through the blockade (in air, land, and sea), which is often seen as a denial of basic human rights via collective punishment of the residents. It restricts all imports and exports in and out of Gaza, and the quality of infrastructure and vital services has decreased significantly as a result. Despite efforts, imports are at less than 40% of pre-2007 (when Hamas took over) amounts. Gazan businesses cannot access markets in Israel and the West Bank (or elsewhere) and as a result have a limited audience meaning limited growth. Implementation of projects aimed at fixing some of these problems have been slowed, as only a select few have been approved by Israeli authorities due to funding shortages. Switching gears, attempts to get around restrictions are resulting in risking one's life for basic economic freedoms.

Thousands of people, many and sometimes most being children, risk their lives by smuggling goods through tunnels under the border with Egypt EVERY DAY. The tunnel industry is a direct result of restrictions on the lack of employment opportunities and inability to trade freely. Lastly, Gazans cannot travel, as not only has there been no international airport for decades (the one airport was destroyed in war and never rebuilt), but residents are not allowed to travel to the West Bank. Despite that the West Bank region is supposedly part of the same state, or entity, entry is prohibited. All of these problems are a result of, and can be improved by, political decisions and the relationship between Israel and Palestine. Both parties are to blame, but pointing fingers without taking action is useless and counterproductive.

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