The Palestinian society is a young society, as the youngsters constitute the majority of the population, while the elderly constitute a minute percentage. The number of elderly people in Palestine has reached 282,679, (or 5%) of the population, including 95,875 (or 5%) living in the Gaza Strip. This category is considered the most vulnerable to diseases, as 33% of the elderly in Palestine suffer from at least one chronic disease, and 27% in the Gaza Strip. The percentage of people infected with the COVID-19 virus in Palestine is around 6%, and about 78% of the 4,286 deaths were from the elderly (60 years and over), which means three out of four deaths were for the elderly. The closure policy resulting from the spread of the virus has also affected the provision of necessary health care for the elderly, as they are the category most in need of medical care and attention. The elderly category was greatly affected in the last aggression, as the aggression led to the deaths of 17 elderly people, among whom 11 males and 6 females, or 6.7%, in addition to the injuries of 113 elderly people, 55 males and 58 females, or 5.94%.
There are a number of institutions that deal with the elderly in Palestine, where there are 24 non-governmental institutions, three of which are in the Gaza Strip governorates, but they have shortage of services as well as human resources to cover operational expenses and development needs; this has resulted in a shortage of employees in some institutions, leading to poor service to the elderly. These organizations face a number of obstacles that constitute an obstacle in front of providing services, the most significant of which are a lack of financial and technical resources, a shortage of volunteers with experience in elderly care, and a lack of day clubs that could provide an appropriate way to alleviate the elderly.
In Palestine, the category of people with special needs accounts for 2.1% of the total population and 52% of those living in the Gaza Strip. Movement disabilities account for the highest percentage of disabilities, as they account for 47,109 individuals, or 51%. About one-fifth of persons with disabilities are children under the age of eighteen, and at a rate of 20%. The percentages were higher in the Gaza Strip, where they constituted 22%. In Palestine, the percentage of elderly people who suffer from at least one difficulty reached 48% and 54% in the Gaza Strip. Movement difficulty was the most prevalent among the elderly, at 31%, followed by visual difficulty at 24%.
This category is considered the most vulnerable during times of aggression and conflict, as it was severely impacted during the aggression of 2021, when ten housing units for people with disabilities were completely or partially destroyed, and new cases of disability arose as a result of 50 people being injured, including ten amputation cases and 35 cases of quadriplegic, hemiplegic, and longitudinal paralysis, as well as the death of three people. The Gaza Strip’s economic and social conditions have deteriorated as a result of Israel’s 15-year siege, which has had a negative impact on this group’s and their families’ conditions, as they face a serious shortage of rehabilitation, social care, health care, and educational services. This category is one of the social groups most affected by the Corona pandemic, as some of them have trouble implementing prevention measures like frequent cleaning of surfaces and the household, and cleaning homes and washing hands on a regular basis may be a challenge for them.
The number of institutions provide it services for people with special needs in the Gaza Strip are more than 55 distributed across the Gaza Strip’s governorates. They work with different kinds of disabilities but they have only fulfill 10% of the basic services due to the suffocating siege imposed on the Strip. These institutions provide early intervention services, legal awareness and guidance services, community, psychological, social, professional and educational rehabilitation services, occupational and physical therapy services, provision of assistive devices and tools, and influence on public policies, but they are experiencing a major crisis in their work, and a shortage of funding provided to them.
In Palestine, women head approximately 11% of the families and 9% of Gaza Strip families. In Palestine, the percentage of working women is around 16%, and the percentage of working women with special needs is 2%. In contrast, the unemployment rate for working women is around 40%.
The 2021 aggression had a significant impact on women, as 39 women were martyred, and had a significant psychological impact by 54%. On the other hand, Israeli aggressions resulted in the deaths of thousands of breadwinners of their families, increasing the burdens on women as they became the family’s first and main breadwinner.
The percentage of people living in poverty in the Gaza Strip has been steadily increasing since 2016, as about 53% of the population living under the poverty line. The recent aggression and the outbreak of COVID-19 both contributed to increasing poverty. As Israeli occupation bombed the economic institutions, the percentage of unemployed people increased and the poverty rate as well. The poverty percentage among workers reached about 75%, and the unemployment rate among the elderly outside the labor force reached 88.6%, so the percentage of elderly participants in the labor force decreased to 11.4%. The poverty rate among members of families headed by an elderly person reached 32%, compared to 29% among families that are not headed by an elderly person. The ongoing closures due to the spread of the Corona virus and the resulting cessation of most economic activities have led to the emergence of the so-called “new poor”, whose appearance was linked to the emergence of the pandemic after the breadwinners of these families were forced to stop working.