The number of residents of the occupied Palestinian territories classified as poor more than doubled in the first quarter of 2006, and by one measure more than 70% of the population of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem now lives in poverty, according to a new survey released Sunday.
The report, released by Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), shows that the number of Palestinians living below the poverty line shot up more than 1.4 million, from 1,309 million to 2,733 million, in just the first three months of the year. The sharp decline in living standards, the report suggests, is primarily a result of the Israeli economic siege and the cut-off of international aid to the Palestinians since the election of the Hamas-led government early this year.

The report includes two estimates of poverty levels, based on different sets of data. On the basis of household expenditure and consumption data, the poverty rate at the end of 2005 stood at 29.4% of households. On the basis of income data, the rate at the end of the year was 47.5% of households.

By the end of the first quarter, the poverty rate based on expenditure data had climbed to 45.2% of households, or about 51.0% of population. When the estimate is calculated from income data, the rate soars to 66.8% of households, or about 70.3% of population.

The report also incorporates two measures of poverty, relative and absolute. The relative poverty line for the reference household in the Palestinian Territories in 2005 stood at NIS (New Israeli Shekels) 2,143 (US$477) . The figure is based on a budget of basic needs, including education and health care, for a family of 6 persons (2 adults and 4 children). The absolute poverty line for 2005, calculated to reflect a budget for food, clothing and housing only for a family of two persons, was estimated at NIS 1,732 (US$385).
The consumption data indicate that 18.1% of the households in the Palestinian Territories – 13.1% in the West Bank and 27.9% in Gaza Strip – were below the absolute standard in 2005.  Based on income date, the rate of severe poverty was 40.2%.
Another finding of the report is that poverty rates are consistently related to the number of children in the household. Households with 1-2 children have the lowest incidence of poverty (19.5%); the rate among households with up to 4 children is also below the national rate. But in larger households, the incidence of poverty jumps dramatically: to 39.0% for households with 5-6 children, 53.6% for households with 7-8 children, and 67.5% for those with 9 children and more.

A separate report recently issued by the World Bank found that more than 54% of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are living below poverty line, defined as $2 a day. The UN World Food Program decided last week to increase the number of the Palestinians eligible for food aid from 450,000 to 600,000.
This article was sourced from the International Press Center