Gaza is facing a humanitarian disaster, the spokesman for UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Adnan Abu Hasna told the German Press Agency dpa on Saturday, as a fleet of boats carrying 10,000 tons of aid for the Strip prepared to set sail from Cyprus.

The “Freedom Flotilla” is expected to arrive in Gaza on Sunday or Monday in an international gesture to call for the lifting of the blockade imposed by Israel in 2007, when the Islamic Hamas movement gained control of the Strip after a bloody battle.

While Israel declares the flotilla an “absolute provocation” and insists that “there is no shortage of humanitarian aid to Gaza,” Hasna described a very different scenario.

“There is a severe humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. There are two aspects to it: firstly human development, mainly the sectors of health and education as well as the psychological stress the population is undergoing.

“Second is the high rate of unemployment and poverty and the deterioration in the commercial, industrial and agricultural sectors.

These sectors have either collapsed or now on the edge of collapse,” Mr. Hasna said.

The spokesman said that 80 percent of the 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip depended on international humanitarian aid organizations, mainly UNRWA.

UNRWA gives aid to 850,000 people, while 106,000 families receive financial help from the organisation, which employs 15,000 workers in special temporary employment programs, he said.

There are 1.1 million refugees in the Strip, 320,000 of whom are living beneath the poverty line. According to UNRWA, 7,000 of those families are among the poorest in the world. Unemployment is 45 per cent.

“Israel has imposed a siege for almost three years now. It’s true that it allows humanitarian aid through, but it doesn’t allow spare parts and equipment to fix damaged machines at factories and farms,” Mr. Hasna continued.

There are no exact figures on Gaza’s rich but Mr. Hasna said that poor and rich were “equal.” “If you have one million dollar or one dollar, you can’t get good education, proper medical treatment or good food. You simply can’t get what you want in Gaza, no matter if you are rich or poor.” The rich included former businessmen and those who smuggled in goods through tunnels under Gaza’s borders, he said, “but those people are very few, they don’t represent more than two per cent of the population.” “Even those who have millions of dollars and want to invest in the Gaza Strip, are not able to because there is no political or economic solution to the whole problem,” he said. “The Gaza Strip is facing a real humanitarian tragedy.”

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