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Gaza Strip: economic support for fishermen in al-Mawasi

09-03-2006 Feature

During the summer 2005, the ICRC conducted a field survey to assess the needs of fishermen in Gaza who had suffered from severe restrictions on access to the sea.

Al-Mawasi is a narrow strip of land on the Mediterranean coast that extends from the middle of the Gaza Strip to the borders of Egypt. It is completely enclosed within the largest chain of Israeli settlements in Gaza.

Since the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, the 8,200 Palestinian inhabitants of the area have been subject to restrictions of movement that had a significant impact on their living conditions.

Fishermen were the most severely affected by these restrictions. In addition to having difficulty selling their catch outside of the enclave at the Khan Younis market, fishermen were often denied access to the sea. Their boats were left unused on the beach, exposed to the sun and sand, gradually falling into disrepair.

In response to this situation, the ICRC Economic Security department launched a project to help fishermen rehabilitate the damaged boats.

The ICRC chose to focus first on the larger Shanshola boats, as most of the fishing industry revolves around these.

" In total, there are 19 Shansholas in the south of Gaza. If they are left without maintenance, our loss will be greater than what we can tolerate " , said Mr. Nizar Ayyash, head of the fishermen syndicate.

Several families own some of these Shansholas and are more than willing to make a personal contribution to rehabilitate their main source of income.

As needs per boat vary, contracts between the ICRC and the various owners differ. Some owners may contribute up to 35% of the overall costs. In average, the renovation cost of a Shanshola is around $16,000 .

The ICRC and the owners of the boats have started the repairs. Four boats have been fully rehabilitated already. It is expected that four more will be repaired by the time of the sardine season in April and the remaining by June 2006.

As soon as the boats are repaired, fishermen are able to resume the sardine fishing ensuring enough income for their families and supplying the poor community with an important and less costly source of food.

This rehabilitation project is expected to significantly increase the employment rate among fishermen. And hopefully this year, the people of the south of the Gaza Strip will enjoy delicious Rafah and Khan Younis sardines at affordable prices.