NOTE: This is a guest blog post from Rania Elhilou, Communications Officer at ANERA – Gaza City.
December, 2010: Randa Al-Jarousha has seven children. Her husband is jobless. He used to work in construction but he got sick and lost his job. Even if he gets better, his chances of finding another construction job are slim since building materials are in short supply.
Most days, Randa sends her son to school without breakfast and relies on the fortified snacks offered in the Milk for Preschoolers program run by ANERA.
“At least I know my son Mohammed can get milk and biscuits every day. Milk is too expensive for me now and I can’t afford to give him protein-rich food like eggs or meat.” A neighbor recently donated three little chickens, which Randa is raising and eventually will cook for her children.
Randa is not alone. The jobless rate now is estimated at 50 percent, one of the world’s highest. That means one out of two Palestinian workers in Gaza cannot find a job.
Somehow they still need to put food on the table. But the price of food is soaring.
A bag of small pita breads costs about $2. A family of seven would need a bag of bread every day but that would cost $14 and without an income, mothers like Randa must do without. She just shakes her head, “Shopping in the market now is a nightmare.”
With no or very little resources, how often can a mother buy a kilo of potatoes at $1.50? Or, a kilo of tomatoes, at $1.50, triple what it cost last summer. A kilo of rice now runs about $2.50. It was only $2 six months ago. A kilo of meat would cost at least $15 – a rare luxury that some families might be able to enjoy every four months or so.
A can of powdered milk runs about $4 and will feed one child for a week. So, most mothers buy larger packages of powdered milk, which can feed more for less. But a kilo of powdered milk will cost more than $13, depending on the quality. So, mothers resort to diluting the milk with a lot of water, which might satisfy their youngster’s thirst but not his nutritional intake. Fresh milk at $2.70 a liter is beyond most budgets.
I now see children scavenging in the garbage to collect plastic bottles and other bits and pieces that they can sell in the market to help their parents buy food.
It’s true that we are less dependent on products smuggled through the tunnels from Egypt now that more products are coming in legally from Israel. But that doesn’t mean we can afford them.
Little has changed for families here. And for most, life is just getting harder.
ABOUT ANERA: For more than 40 years, ANERA has been a leading provider of development, health, education and employment programs to Palestinian communities and impoverished families throughout the Middle East. In FY 2009, the relief and development agency delivered more than $50 million of programs to the people of the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon and Jordan. For more information, go to www.anera.org.
Photo courtesy of ANERA