In his humble house in the refugee beach camp, Mohammed Jarada, 45 years old, fans his three children with a newspaper while his wife cooks soap after a long and hot day of Ramazan.
Mohammed, a governmental employee says, “Things have become really hard these days; my salary is 15 days late and I can barely provide enough food for my children.”
Just like Mohammed, many Palestinians in the Gaza strip are undergoing the holy month of Ramazan this year in very hard circumstances, making their lives harder and even more complicated than they already are.
Some of these problems are economical due to the hard financial crunch that the Palestinian authority is facing; which is affecting the salaries of governmental employees. Other problems are political such as the ongoing electricity crisis and the lack of fuel, among the many other tribulations that the Gazans are facing in the besieged coastal territory.
According to official statistics, unemployment in the Gaza strip has peaked to around 45 per cent and poverty has exceeded at lest 70 per cent because of the Israeli siege on the Gaza strip which is draining the Palestinian economy.
The economy in the Gaza strip is considered to be a very weak since the agriculture and industrial sectors are identified as undemanding which makes the strip dependent mostly on international aid.
Government salaries which are considered the only stimulating tool for the Gazan economy were delayed for over 15 days, leading to an economic recession in the local market.
Rafat Al-Sersawi, a shop owner said: “The situation in the markets is atrocious this year, especially during Ramazan. Our goods remain untouched, no one is able to buy them. All of this is occurring because government employees haven’t received their salaries yet.”
The direct cause of the abysmal economic situation seems to be the delay of the government salaries. There are around 120,000 government employees in the Palestinian territories. Out of these, 70,000 are in the Gaza strip and none of them have received their salaries; which have been estimated to be about 130 million USD a month.
Mr. Omar Shaban, an economic analyst said, “The whole economic circle in the Gaza strip comes to a halt when these salaries get delayed since almost all government employees take loans from banks and then cannot afford to pay back. The shop owners aren’t selling with notes anymore.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only problem the people in Gaza strip are facing during Ramazan. The lack of electricity and fuel is now forcing Gazans to have their meals in the dark.
The electric cut off in Gaza has reached its peak during Ramazan. In soaring temperatures, Gaza’s only power plant has shut down on several occasions and the 1.7 million residents of the coastal strip face up to 18-hour blackouts each day, despite Qatar sending in fuel donations to operate the solo power planet.
Things are expected to get worse regarding the energy supplies which come through the tunnels from Egypt because of the latest incident that led to the killing of 16 Egyptian soldiers this month beside the Kerem Shalom gate between Egypt, Israel and Gaza strip.
Mr. Hany Habib, a political analyst said: “Many fear that these attacks will add more restrictions and reduce the amount of fuel entering the Gaza strip.”
Gaza has been heavily reliant on the fuel smuggled in from Egypt through underground tunnels since Israel’s blockade of the territory began in 2007. Analysts say that after the blockade was eased in 2010, the territory began to see some growth. But political uncertainty across the border in Egypt has dealt a bloody blow to its fragile economy.
According to the Ministry of Power and Natural Resources, the Gaza Strip requires around 40 to 45 million liters of fuel per month where 15 million liters of that is especially for the electricity company.
Most Gazan families are no longer capable of providing fuel for their generators since the prices are increasing and supply quickly decreasing.
It is, however, heartening to see that people in the strip are resilient; and nowhere near as disheartened as you would think. They’re keeping the joy of Ramazan around, going to the mosques and walking in the parks, especially at night when the temperature goes down a little.
Mohammed Jarada says, “Ramadan has a different spiritual feel to it. I try to make my children experience it through going to the mosque and visiting our relatives and playing in the public park whenever the electricity is off at night.”
Dr. Waleed Shbair, a lecturer at the social affairs department in the Islamic University of Gaza said: “The people in the Gaza strip have faced a series of obstacles for over 60 years – that’s an entire lifetime for some of them. But they have successfully arrived at that point where they not only take all their problems in their stride but also adapt swiftly and make the best of what they’ve got.”
The writer is based in Gaza strip – Palestinian territories and has been working as a journalist and Human rights activist. He has also covered many events in this war zone for several international TV’s and newspapers around the world. He can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.