On 5 July, Israel announced details about the easing of the blockade on Gaza, where goods on a ‘list of controlled items’ would now be allowed into the region. This list included previously banned food like ketchup and chocolate, small goods like children’s toys and paper and larger items such as mattresses and washing machines. Goods listed as ‘dual use’, such as fertilisers, gas tanks, drilling and water disinfecting equipment, are still banned.
Despite the lifting of restrictions, aid agencies say that much-needed reconstruction is still not taking place, because building materials are not entering Gaza in the kind of quantities needed. For example, the UN has noted that Gaza is only obtaining a fraction of the gravel and sand necessary for construction.
According to the UN, Gaza continues to suffer from a severe crisis, with an estimated 80% of people still dependent on some kind of aid or assistance from humanitarian sources. This is largely due to high unemployment, which runs at 40%. After restrictions on import and export were imposed, most of Gaza’s 3,900 factories were forced to close, resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs. And the economy remains at a virtual standstill.
This means that to help feed their families, many children now go out to work in Gaza. Children can routinely be found in the streets, workshops and rubbish dumps of the region. Save the Children has been speaking to a number of these working youngsters, in order to find out what their lives are like.
The charity interviewed Raed Ahmed Moussa, a fourteen year-old boy in Gaza city, who spends his time fixing car engines to help support his family of eight brothers and sisters, because his father is unemployed. Raed left school in January 2009 to become the breadwinner of his family.
Save the Children also spoke to thirteen year-old Moussa Suhail Obeid, who is paid 1 to 2 dollars a day for collecting scrap plastic and steel from the main landfill site in Gaza city. Three years ago, he began working at the landfill before and after school, but is now employed full time. Moussa says he finds it hard seeing other children playing and going to school while he toils in the heart of all the garbage mounds. Some children interviewed by the charity perform heavy manual work, such as collecting bags of rubble and some spend many hours selling goods on the streets.
All the families spoken to by Save the Children were grateful for the help they received from aid agencies, providing food, education and health care. But equally, the parents hoped for a better future and to earn again, so they are able to support their children, rather than watch them having to work from a young age.