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$20 million appeal to support Palestine labour market

The funding appeal – launched on Thursday in Geneva – will be used to implement a three-phase programme to provide immediate relief and support longer-term job and business recovery, as well as social protection.

“The hostilities have resulted in – and continue to cause – both a tragic loss of human life, and an unprecedented loss of livelihoods, jobs, income, businesses, and civilian infrastructure,” said ILO Director-General Gilbert Houngbo, speaking at the launch, which was held on the sidelines of the latest session of the agency’s governing body.

Economic activity crippled

The ILO has published a bulletin that examines how the conflict – which erupted on 7 October – has so far impacted the labour market and livelihoods in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), home to more than 3.4 million people, with a labour force of over 1.5 million.

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The UN agency estimates at least 61 per cent of the labour market in Gaza has been wiped out; equivalent to 182,000 jobs. The conflict is also having spillover effects in the West Bank, where nearly 24 per cent of employment has also been lost, equivalent to 208,000 jobs. Put together, this translates to $16 million in daily labour income that has been lost.

Mr. Houngbo outlined the destruction in Gaza. He said entire neighbourhoods have been destroyed, infrastructure has been severely damaged, businesses have closed, large-scale internal displacement has occurred, and the lack of water, food and fuel are crippling economic activity.

Workers stranded, trade restricted  

Additionally, almost 6,000 residents who were working in Israel prior to the conflict are presently stranded in the West Bank amidst dire conditions. UN health and aid workers on the ground are also in extreme danger. 

Furthermore, access measures enforced by Israel across the OPT have effectively revoked access rights, as workers and traders with valid permits are prevented from entering Israel and East Jerusalem through any checkpoints.

Trade restrictions have also been applied for vital goods transiting from Israeli ports to the OPT, further jeopardizing the basic needs of families and the overall economy.

Situation set to worsen 

Gaza has been under Israeli blockade since 2006, so conditions were already particularly dire even before the conflict.  The enclave has had persistently high rates of poverty and vulnerability and its unemployment rate – 46.4 per cent as of the second quarter of this year – is among the highest in the world.

“The already huge losses our research has identified are only projected to increase if the conflict and tragic humanitarian crisis continue, with repercussions that will be felt for many years to come,” warned ILO Regional Director for Arab States, Ruba Jaradat.

Assistance, analysis and recovery 

The ILO response programme aims to address the impact of the crisis in three phases. 

The first focuses on immediate relief and is already underway. It entails providing immediate assistance such as emergency livelihood support schemes to Palestinian workers, including the Gazans who are now stranded in the West Bank after losing their jobs inside Israel. 

The ILO has already channelled around $2 million of its internal resources towards emergency relief interventions and preliminary data collection. It is also working on allocating further resources to implement the response plan. 

The second stage covers data collection and impact analysis to help plan, prioritize and fine-tune interventions.

The final phase addresses recovery. The focus will be on job creation through “employment intensive infrastructure recovery” and other means, in addition to social protection measures and recovery of jobs and businesses. 

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