Palestinian protesters remove part of the Israeli barbed wire during clashes with Israeli security forces, at the Israel-Gaza border, in east of Gaza city on April 13, 2018. Photo: / MEGA /NTB Scanpix

Gaza: The world’s largest open-air prison

Roald Høvring|Published 26. Apr 2018
More than 50 years of occupation and 10 years of blockade have made the lives of 1.9 million Palestinians living inside the Gaza Strip unbearable. That is why they now are protesting and risking their lives.
Please note that this article was published on 26 April 2018 and is therefore more than five years old.

Palestinian children and youth grow up in a society characterised by fear, lack of security, hopelessness and the lack of work, medical services, food, freedom of movement and other essentials. Today many refer to the Gaza Strip as the world’s largest open-air prison, where the prison guard is Israel.


Unliveable by 2020

Gaza is one of the world's most densely populated areas, with more than 5,000 inhabitants per square kilometre. The Gaza Strip is smaller than the city of Oslo but is home to three times as many people. The population is expected to rise to 2.1 million by 2020.

A 2012 UN report predicted the Palestinian enclave would be “unliveable” by 2020 if nothing was done to ease the blockade, but in June 2017 a UN report on living conditions in Gaza stated that all the indicators are going in the wrong direction and that deadline is actually approaching even faster than earlier predicted.


Why are Palestinians in Gaza protesting?

1.9 million people are confined
Gaza is described by many Palestinians and humanitarian actors as the world’s largest open-air prison. 1.94 million Palestinians live behind a blockade and are refused access to the other occupied Palestinian areas and the rest of the world.

7 out of 10 are refugees
7 out of 10 Palestinians in Gaza are registered as refugees, and many of these come from families who were forced to leave their villages in 1948. Many have also been forced to leave their homes due to war and violence.

Four years after the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2014, 23,500 Palestinians in Gaza are still unable to return to their homes.

700 children have been killed
The oldest children in Gaza have lived through three wars that have killed more than 3,800 Palestinians. More than 700 of these were children. Many children have seen family members, relatives, friends or others be killed or seriously injured.

50 per cent are traumatised by war
Half of all children have been psychologically traumatised by war, occupation and blockade. Close to 300,000 children need psychosocial help.

70 per cent of all schools run double shifts
Close to 70 per cent of all schools run double or triple shifts due to a lack of schools. In addition, a lack of electricity reduces the students' chance to learn or do homework. The blockage also stops young people from studying on the West Bank or abroad.

According to the UN's organisation for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), the large cuts in donations from the US may lead to the organisation being unable to deliver diesel to 275 schools. These schools may be forced to close down if other countries do not contribute.

42 per cent are unemployed
The people in Gaza face the world's largest unemployment rate. 42 per cent of the capable, adult population live without compensated work. For those aged between 15 and 29 years old, the unemployment rate has risen to 62 per cent.

Today, the people in Gaza are 25 per cent poorer than they were when the first part of the Oslo agreement was signed in 1993.

84 per cent are in need of humanitarian aid
1.6 million people, or 84 per cent of the population in Gaza, need humanitarian aid. The number is increasing, and the UN calculates that more than two million people will need humanitarian aid by 2020.

41 per cent have too little food
4 out of 10 families struggle to acquire enough food. In Gaza, more than 830,000 Palestinians need assistance in the form of food or nutritional supplements.

According to UNRWA, the large cuts in funding from the US will cause the UN to have to reduce food support. Most of those who will be affected are already living below the poverty line.

98 per cent of ground water is undrinkable
98 per cent of the water in Gaza is contaminated and undrinkable. Gaza has beautiful beaches, but every day, 90 million litres of unfiltered sewage is pumped out along the shoreline.

2-4 hours of electricity
The Gazan population cannot count on more than 2-4 hours of continuous electrical power a day. Every day, Gaza experiences up to 22 hours of power outage.

35 per cent of arable land is unavailable
35 per cent of the land eligible for farming is unavailable and fishermen are blocked from 85 per cent of the waters on the coast of Gaza due to Israeli security zones. 

7 per cent of children suffer from stunted growth
Poverty and a lack of food has led to 7 per cent of children suffering from stunted growth due to long-term malnutrition. Sixty per cent of the children are anaemic.

45 per cent are refused medical treatment outside Gaza
Those in need of specialised medical treatment must apply for permission from the Israeli government to leave Gaza. Many applications are declined, or at best delayed, and many risk dying while they wait.

In October 2017, the World Health Organization reported that only 55 per cent of the applications to leave Gaza for medical treatment were granted.