In the heart of the Gaza Strip, where over 70 years of political conflict, economic challenges, and ongoing hostilities have left vulnerable socio-economic conditions, Penny Appeal USA has embarked on a transformative project to provide crucial healthcare and education services for orphaned children. The historical context of the region, marked by mass migration in 1948, direct Israeli occupation between 1967 and 2005, and economic de-development policies, has created structural impediments to development and recovery.
The Gaza Strip, a region steeped in complexity and adversity, has witnessed four major periods of hostilities since 2008. These conflicts have left thousands of people displaced, dispossessed, and many others disabled or killed. Adding to the struggles, the Gaza Strip has been subjected to a strict blockade by both Israel and Egypt since 2007, coupled with frequent restrictive measures by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). Between March 2017 and February 2021, 62,000 public servants in Gaza, on the PNA payroll, experienced salary cuts ranging from 30% to 50%. Moreover, the Gaza Strip grapples with a chronic electricity crisis, with demand far exceeding the available supply, leaving citizens with access to electricity for only 12 hours per day in the best-case scenario.
Compounding these challenges, the United States largely cut its support to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in 2018, resulting in a budget deficit of around 300 million USD. Despite the significant threat, UNRWA, a stabilizing factor in Gaza since 1949, managed to attract donations from various countries to sustain their basic operations, particularly in health and education services. However, the current American administration’s hesitation to fully restore historic support to UNRWA adds uncertainty to its future.
These adversities have significantly impacted the well-being of the Gaza Strip’s population. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) reports a steady increase in the unemployment rate, reaching 43.1% in quarter four of 2020, with an alarming 49% reported in the second quarter of 2020. The poverty rate, last measured in 2017, stood at 53%. These economic hardships have translated into increased malnutrition among children, with 30.7% of Gaza’s children suffering from anemia, and a higher percentage facing deficiencies in essential nutrients such as Vitamins A, D, and Zinc.
Amidst these dire circumstances, Penny Appeal USA’s healthcare and education initiative in Gaza emerges as a beacon of hope. With a specific focus on poor, disabled orphan students, the project aims to address the unique challenges faced by the most disadvantaged children. Inclusive education is at the forefront of this initiative, recognizing the myriad barriers that children with disabilities encounter in accessing and thriving in an educational environment.
The core of the project lies in providing comprehensive medical services to identified poor, disabled orphan students. These services include essential medical check-ups, such as eye tests, vision screenings, hearing testing, and mobility support. By ensuring that these children receive the necessary medical attention, Penny Appeal USA is not only contributing to their immediate well-being but also laying the foundation for their academic success.
Penny Appeal USA’s commitment goes beyond short-term relief; it is a holistic approach aimed at nurturing hope and healing in the lives of Gaza’s most vulnerable children. By addressing healthcare needs alongside education, the organization is taking a comprehensive approach to break down barriers that prevent these children from reaching their full potential.
In conclusion, Penny Appeal USA’s healthcare and education initiative in the Gaza Strip stands as a powerful and comprehensive response to the multifaceted challenges faced by the region’s vulnerable population. In the midst of adversity, the organization is sowing seeds of hope, nurturing the potential of disabled orphan students, and contributing to the creation of a more inclusive, resilient, and hopeful community in Gaza. The project reflects the organization’s commitment to making a lasting impact on the lives of those who need it most.