USC Students for Justice in Palestine

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Electronic Intifada: One-third of Palestinians ‘food insecure’

Posted by uscsjp on March 24, 2007

Report, The Electronic Intifada, 22 March 2007

Palestinians receive supplies donated by the European Union and distributed by world food Programe (WFP) in the West Bank city of Hebron, July 9, 2006. (MaanImages/Mamoun Wazwaz)

RAMALLAH, 22 March 2007 (IRIN) – One-third of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are food insecure, according to a report by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

About 34 percent of Palestinians cannot afford a balanced meal and another 12 percent are at risk of reaching this state, the organisations found in a Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Assessment published this month. Most affected is the Gaza Strip, where 51 percent of the population suffers from food insecurity.

“The poorest families are now living a meagre existence totally reliant on assistance, with no electricity or heating and eating food prepared with water from bad sources,” according to a statement by Arnold Vercken, the WFP country director for the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). But an Israeli spokesperson said Palestinian authorities should take more responsibility.

“The problem is there is a government that does not recognise Israel or the agreements that constitute the relationship between us and the Palestinians,” said Shlomo Dror, spokesman for the Government Coordination Unit, which covers the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the West Bank.

“Why don’t the Palestinians help themselves? They have enough money to arm themselves to the teeth so why don’t they use it for the benefit of their people?”

He added that Israeli nutritionists had suggested ways to include more vitamins in UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and WFP food packages to ensure Palestinian children had a better diet.

The new FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Vulnerability Assessment, last conducted in 2003, will help the UN food agency design beneficiary profiles to fine-tune food aid distribution.

The poorest families are now living a meagre existence totally reliant on assistance, with no electricity or heating and eating food prepared with water from bad sources.

Poverty is rising in the West Bank and Gaza because of international sanctions, compounded by Israeli restrictions on the movement of Palestinian goods and labour related to security concerns. The Palestinian Authority (PA) cannot pay its civil servants because the international community has refused to fund the PA unless the Palestinian government, which includes Hamas, recognises Israel and renounces violence.

Some PA salaries are being paid through a Temporary International Mechanism supported by the European Commission. About 80 percent of Gazans receive aid from WFP or UNRWA.

“Without a political resolution – and particularly removal of restrictions on movement – improvement in the humanitarian situation is unlikely and millions will remain dependent on assistance,” noted the FAO/WFP report. “A substantive injection of aid and social transfers has partially cushioned the declining humanitarian situation in Palestine, but aid cannot fully compensate for the loss of self-reliance.” (continued)

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