Page 91


from New York Times

Sent in by Salim Khabbaza - Great Neck, NY

The population explosion in the Palestinian-governed Gaza Strip appears to be unrivalled in the world. Its population of 1.1 million - half under 15 - is expected to double by 2014, which would pose almost unimaginable strains on what is already a highly congested area with few jobs, severely inadequate housing and almost no natural resources. (The current population of just over 3 million in the West Bank and Gaza combined is expected to rise to 5.5 million by then).

Gaza's extremely high fertility rate of seven children per woman is comparable to Somalia's or Uganda's. But unlike those countries, almost all the babies survive and adults live a relatively long life, fuelling a boom that is now forcing difficult choices on Palestinians and their leaders.

Family planning is a central issue in Gaza - central, at least, to many young Palestinians who say they do not want their children to suffer as they did in oversized poor families. But, for the young Palestinian government, with its conservative, male-dominated Islamic society, family planning is culturally sensitive and politically complex. Large families are not only traditional but a point of nationalist pride.

For the five year old Palestinian Authority, the population issue has been a challenge, although one that has not been publicly acknowledged. Officially, Palestinian leaders have long advocated population growth as a way to outnumber the Israelis on the land the two groups share.



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