Representatives of various Palestinian civil society organizations and private sector, as well as legal experts in the Gaza Strip, warned of consequences of rapid population growth in the Gaza Strip amidst a great deal of shortage of resources and widespread restrictions on all spheres of life, siege imposed by the Israeli occupation, along with frequent Israeli attacks on Gaza, in addition to ongoing intra-Palestinian political split, all in place for more than 15 years, now.
In their speeches, during a conference held in Gaza city by the Palestinian NGOs Network (PNGO), in partnership with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, within PNGO's project "Channels of Developing Community Needs within a rapid population growth in the Gaza Strip", both NGOs' representatives and experts emphasized on the need for coordination of efforts by all concerned parties, in order to encounter all challenges, posed by overpopulation in the Gaza Strip.
Their warning came against the backdrop of 3.5% of annual increase of the population in the Gaza Strip, where land is barley available.
They called for setting certain strategies that would in turn enable all civil society organizations to live up with their commitments towards resolving all population-related problems in the society.
Director of PNGO, Mr. Amjad Shawa, told participants that Gaza Strip is the most densely-populated area in the world, with 5936 residents live in only one square kilo meters and that in certain areas of the Gaza Strip, 13,789 residents live in one square kilometer. Shawa warned that such rates are incredibly large.
PNGO's director also pointed out that the population growth in the Gaza Strip is coinciding with awkward development indicators, fragile infrastructure, continued Israeli siege of Gaza Strip, as well as ongoing intra-Palestinian political split. Shawa noted that these circumstances pose a great deal of challenges for various service sectors including health, education, social protection, electricity and water.
He asserted on the need for finding sustainable solutions for all such challenges that face the population of the Gaza Strip.
Mr. Shawa made clear that the conference was held following discussion of many research papers tackled the economic and social conditions, the information technology sector, social protection, the right to housing and others.
The deputy-director of PNGO, Mr. Tayseer Mohaisen, noted that "the Israel-imposed siege and the frequent Israeli aggressions on the Gaza Strip, have caused a large-scale damage to Gaza Strip's infrastructure, production facilities, residential buildings, economic outlets.
In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused an economic recession and made production and development rates in the society awkward. With the rapid population growth in the Gaza Strip, the situation is increasingly becoming complicated".
Mohaisen noted that the conference addresses the relation between overpopulation in the Gaza Strip and the challenges, posed by it to various key sectors. It also addresses all demographic, economic, social and living indicators that all suggest that the living conditions in the Gaza Strip are catastrophic.
He called for concentration of all possible efforts by all parties concerned, in order to deal with potential consequences.
From his part, representative of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Dr. Osama Antar, called for finding sustainable solutions for Gaza Strip's crises, in order to sort out consequences of population growth in the Gaza Strip at various levels, noting that all economic and social indicators in the Gaza Strip indicate that the situation is increasingly becoming worse.
Antar also asserted that his institution's partnership with the Palestinian NGOs Network (PNGO) for this year has addressed several prospects for a better future of Gaza Strip.
During the first session of the conference, which was headed by Ms. Andalib Adwan, director of Community Media Center, Engineer Mamoun Besaiso, presented a paper on "Relation between population growth in the Gaza Strip and the challenges facing various sectors, as well as possible solutions".
Besaiso noted that the overpopulation poses a large catastrophe in light of limited resources and thus Palestinian residents could not have access to minimum basic services. He added that such a situation would deepen the humanitarian crisis and increase poverty and needs, unless a national strategy is set for saving the population.
Besaiso also asserted that the population density in the Gaza Strip has increased demand for power supply, especially when it comes to new residential towns and housing units, as well as the sewage water treatment networks, roads lighting and industrial zones operation. He explained that it is obvious that current power supply networks in the Gaza Strip no longer meet the population's need for power supply, for the time being and for the future. He called for a drastic solution for the power outage crisis, away from any politics and on professional basis only.
In another paper titled "NGOs' role in facing challenges, posed by the population density in the Gaza Strip", presented by Mohsen Abu Ramadan, director of the Dr. Haidar Abdelshafi Center for Culture and Development, noted that NGOs have contributed to relief services and development programs for impoverished and marginalized groups of the society by means of lobbying for the best of laws and legislations and advocacy policies that would have supported marginalized and impoverished communities of the society.
In addition, Abu Ramadan explained that the Israeli occupation has restricted actions of the NGOs, and this was evident by declaring seven civil organizations as “organizations related to terrorism”, in addition to the politicized funding conditions and mechanisms that work to reduce the work space of local civil organizations that reject such conditions and object to that funding mechanism of which priorities and needs are determined by the international organization rather than reliance on needs and priorities proposed from civil society organizations.
In her paper "Reality of women and ways to reinforce women's roles", Ms. Nadia Abu Nahla, director of Women's Affairs Technical Committee in Gaza pointed out that the society in the Gaza Strip is considered to be young, with 41% of the population are between the age of 0 to 14 years old. She noted that this particular category of the society requires some good care by means of aid, education, health and social protection programs and this is the responsibility of the state to provide all these programs.
She also explained that because of the frequent Israeli occupation aggressions against the Gaza Strip, the number of female-headed households has increased by 12%. That is because of the death of family heads. She further made clear that the rate of widows, especially young ones, has reached 3%, and the percentage is increasing, especially widows in the prime of their lives.
In the second session of the conference, moderated by director of the National Society for Rehabilitation, Mr. Jamal Alruzi, Ashraf Yazouri, deputy-head of the board of Information Technology Companies (PITA), presented a work paper titled "Digitalization in relation to future visions". He believed that the information technology sector in the Gaza Strip is borderless, in spite of the continued Israeli siege of Gaza.
He also noted that the number of staff workers in this sector itself has incredibly increased with outsourcing and freelancing environment, where IT workers offer services to peoples overseas. According to Alyazouri, such a development has increased demands for fully-equipped work stations, where power supply and internet services are available around the clock.
Ayazouri also asserted that the overpopulation results in huge demands for internet services and telecommunications, either for personal or business purposes.
Yet, Alyazouri believed that existing telecommunication networks cannot meet minimum requirements. He called for using the 5G technology in order to drastically develop telecommunications and information technology in the Gaza Strip and thus offering best such services to the field's staff workers, who in return will be able to export their online services to overseas.
From her part, Ms. Nuha Alsharif, coordinator of the advocacy and media department of the Agriculture Relief Society, presented a paper on the reality of agriculture sector and ways to reinforce it, mentioning that the overpopulation, has increased the demand for foods in a time local agricultural productions are limited, due to expansion of urban areas and reduction of farmlands in a society, where the rate of population growth is bigger than that of foods production.
Alsharif made clear that improving food security is a sole responsibility on the shoulders of local government and therefore, the government should support the agricultural sector by means of ensuring food availability and fighting unemployment through creating job opportunities and raising awareness of local residents towards a better food culture.
She further believed that civil society organizations have a role to play, mainly advocating the issue and lobbying governments and donor countries towards a better food security.
She added that the private sector has a role to play by ensuring food security by means of investing in the agricultural sector and creating related sustainable job opportunities.
The last paper was on the reality of industrial sector and its role in economic prosperity", presented by Mr. Ahmad Alnabrees, representative for the Palestinian Federation of Industries. He said that the union includes 4000 factories in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and employs thousands of skilled and unskilled workers, with a focus on the national economy and the Palestinian product.
He pointed out that the industrial sector faces many challenges, beginning from the crossings and spare parts, through energy, laws and government-based facilitations and support.
Alnabrees concluded his speech by outlining a number of recommendations for the industrial sector in Palestine. He called for ensuring some sources of sustainable energy and finding alternatives.
He also urged developing programs that would upgrade industrial productions, from administrative and technical perspectives, in a way that would protect local productions.
Furthermore, he called for building up capacities of workers in the industrial field, saying that a great deal of facilitation should be ensured including raw materials, protection by means of government-taken decisions, sustainable energy and some other approval for certain exports.
Alnabreesi believed that once these requirements are met, the industrial sector will witness more production capacities that would in turn allow more workers in and more contributions to the national economy.
Among the most notable recommendations, offered by participants of the conference, is establishing free trade and industrial zones that would allow more working opportunities to open, reaching out border areas, which are considered to be the food basket.
They also recommended that there needs to be compatibility between education's outcomes and the local market's needs so that they become useful and feasible for the productive and economic process, in addition to supporting the inputs of small and micro projects and initiatives that liberate their owners from poverty and dependence.
The participants in the conference called for providing housing units by adopting vertical construction, and easing the burden of overcrowding in some residential neighborhoods and refugee camps, stressing the need to strengthen the role of the agricultural and industrial sectors and increase their share in the public budget.
They urged the international community to pressure the Israeli occupation authorities to lift the siege of Gaza completely and allow investment in natural resources, especially gas, as well as finding sustainable energy sources, in addition to empowering women economically.
Eventually, they called for ending the current intra-Palestinian political split, so that both Gaza Strip and the West Bank could be integrated