Cut off from the world, Gazans consumed by poverty

Thu Apr 17, 2014 7:02am EDT
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By Noah Browning and Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - Life has never seemed so grim for the Mustafas, a family of seven cramped into a shabby two-room hovel in Gaza's Jabalya refugee camp.

Seven years into an Israeli blockade and ten months into a crippling Egyptian one, Gaza's economic growth has evaporated and unemployment soared to almost 40 percent by the end of 2013.

Opposition to the Hamas militant group which runs the Gaza Strip has led its neighbors to quarantine the enclave, shutting residents out of the struggling Mideast peace process and leaving them with plenty of parties to blame.

Living on U.N. handouts of rice, flour, canned meat and sunflower oil, with limited access to proper health care or clean water, families like the Mustafas - seemingly permanent refugees from ancestral lands now part of Israel - have no money, no jobs and no hope.

"We're drowning... We feel like the whole world is on top of us. I turn on the television and I see the lifestyles on there, and I think, God help me leave this place," said Tareq, 22.

The Mustafas often must pick up and move when rain floods their low-lying home - even on a sunny day, it's lined with slick, smelly mildew. They stand in the dark, as 12-hour power cuts are now the norm throughout Gaza due to scant fuel.

"There's no money for university or to get married. There's not even enough to spend outside the house so we can escape a little. What kind of life is this?" Tareq asks.

Well over half of Gaza residents receive food from the United Nations, and the number is on the rise.   Continued...

A Palestinian woman burns firewood to cook at her house in the northern Gaza Strip March 20, 2014. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem