Impoverished Gazans lament stagnant livestock market

Palestinians prepare a young bull for slaughter on the first day of Eid al-Adha in Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip on August 11, 2019, as Muslims across the world celebrated the first day of the Feast of Sacrifice, which marks the end of the hajj pilgrimage to Makkah.(AFP / SAID KHATIB)
Updated 11 August 2019

Impoverished Gazans lament stagnant livestock market

  • Traders and customers blame stagnant market on unprecedented levels of poverty

GAZA CITY: Livestock traders in Gaza are frustrated by the reluctance of Palestinians to buy sacrificial livestock for Eid Al-Adha because of the deteriorating economic situation. Many locals lack purchasing power due to the Israeli siege and a wage crisis.

Traders and customers blamed the stagnant market on unprecedented levels of poverty.

In order to encourage people to buy, livestock owners have resorted to a system of sale by installments. Others are skeptical of this system, fearing the inability of some to pay, especially in light of the financial crisis experienced by Palestinian Authority (PA) employees.

Mohammed Khadr and five friends agreed to join together and buy a sacrificial calf by payments in monthly installments.

Khadr, a 53-year-old taxi driver, said he would not have been able to buy it without the installment system. He said he and his friends have agreed to buy a calf in installments of 1,800 shekels ($510) per person over nine months.

Khadr said that he used to always buy the Eid sacrifice outright, but he would not have bought it for the past three years without help from the installment system.

Despite the system, Mohammed Al-Assar said he would not buy a sacrifice for the third year in a row because of the salary crisis.

“I have used the Eid sacrifice for a decade. We had income, but now with the big deduction on salaries, I have not been able to buy a sacrifice over the past two years,” said Al-Assar, a PA employee.

He said that the salary drop caused a deterioration in the living conditions of thousands of PA employees in Gaza. He added that some of them are barely able to provide basic necessities, while many are exhausted by debts and loans.

Since April 2017, the PA has imposed financial cuts on the salaries of more than 50,000 employees in the Gaza Strip, ranging from 30 to 50 percent per capita.

“The majority of those who buy the sacrifices this year are friends and acquaintances, according to the financial installment system,” said Abu Karim Al-Satari, a livestock merchant who owns a farm in the southern Gaza Strip.

He added that the low demand for sacrifices comes despite a decline in prices compared with previous years. This, he said, is due to the deteriorating economic conditions of the majority of the population.

According to Al-Satari, the average price ranges from 16 to 20 shekels per kg.

The Israeli siege and internal Palestinian political divisions have caused a collapse in the living conditions of about 2 million Palestinians, most of whom depend on humanitarian assistance provided by the UN.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, about 53 percent of the population of the Gaza Strip are impoverished.

Cattle merchant Aziz Afanah agrees with Al-Satari that “the livestock market for this year is witnessing a marked decline in the demand to buy sacrifices due to a lack of cash and purchasing power of the majority of Gazans.”

But Afanah, despite the sharp recession in the livestock market, refuses to sell in installments to avoid problems of inability to pay.

“Selling by installments needs guarantees, and in Gaza there is no guarantee after the majority of people entered the cycle of financial crisis,” he said.


UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

A Palestinian refugee holds a placard at a school belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the town of Sebline east of the southern Lebanese port of Saida, on March 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2019

UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

  • UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses

BRUSSELS: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees is waiting anxiously on the outcome this month of a probe into alleged mismanagement that has dented its already severely depleted funding, one of its top officials said Monday.
The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.
UNRWA’s director for West Bank operations Gwyn Lewis told AFP in Brussels: “We’re waiting with bated breath because it obviously has financial implications.”
She said the conclusions of the probe are expected to be delivered “around the end of October” to UN chief Antonio Guterres, who would then issue public and internal “follow-up steps.”
The timing is crucial as the agency’s three-year mandate is up for renewal this month, and money is tight.
UNRWA has been skating on very thin financial ice since last year, after US President Donald Trump decided to suspend, then yank entirely his country’s contribution to the agency’s budget, robbing it of its top donor.
Those woes were compounded by the allegations of abuse by the agency’s management, leading other key donors — the Netherlands and Switzerland — to snap shut their purses.
That has left the agency struggling to provide the schooling, medical and sanitary programs it runs for Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.
According to a copy of an internal UN report obtained by AFP in July, senior management at UNRWA engaged in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain.”

FASTFACT

The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.

Lewis did not confirm those allegations, noting only “rumors” and leaks to the media.
“None of us have actually seen it,” she said of the report, adding: “Our sense is that it’s not about financial misappropriation or corruption, it’s linked to management and human resources issues.”
She did note that the agency’s deputy chief, Sandra Mitchell, had been replaced in August by an acting deputy commissioner-general tasked with strengthening human resources and financial oversight.
Lewis said she was in Brussels for two days of meetings with European Commission officials to shore up UNRWA’s mandate renewal and, importantly, to maintain funding.
Despite program cutbacks, the agency faces an $89 million shortfall for the rest of this year, she said, and “financial uncertainty” beyond that.
UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses. Making up for the pulled US funding was a “challenge,” she said.