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Palestinian Food Supply Insecure

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    Half of Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza malnourished By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem 22 February 2007
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 28, 2007
      Half of Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza malnourished
      By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
      22 February 2007

      Around 46 per cent of Gaza and West Bank households are "food
      insecure" or in danger of becoming so, according to a UN report on the
      impact of conflict and the global boycott of the Hamas-led Palestinian

      The unpublished draft report, the first of its kind since the boycott
      was imposed when the Hamas government took office last March, says
      bluntly that the problem "is primarily a function of restricted
      economic access to food resulting from ongoing political conditions".

      The report, jointly produced by the UN's World Food Programme and the
      Food and Agriculture Organisation, paints a bleak picture of the
      impact on food consumption and expenditure throughout the occupied
      Palestinian territories. It says that the situation is "more grim" in
      Gaza where four out of five families have reduced their spending -
      including on food - in the first quarter of last year alone.

      The report acknowledges that "traditionally strong ties" among
      Palestinian families tend to reduce the possibility of "acute
      household hunger". But it warns that against a background of
      decreasing food security since the beginning of the Intifada since
      2000 and the loss of PA salaries because of the boycott there are now
      "growing concerns about the sustainability of Palestinians' resilience".

      The report is the latest of a series detailing deepening Palestinian
      poverty as a result of both closures blocking exports from Gaza and
      the international and Israeli boycott of the PA. Its timing is
      especially sensitive, coming to light after both Israel and the US
      indicated that they will maintain the boycott after the planned Fatah
      Hamas coalition cabinet takes office unless it clearly commits itself
      to recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and adherence to
      previous agreements with Israel.

      The UN report says 34 per cent of households - with income below $1.68
      per day and/or showing decreasing food expenditures - are "food
      insecure" . The WFP officially defines "food security" as "the ability
      of a household to produce and/or access at all times the minimum food
      needed for a healthy and active life". It goes on to say that 12 per
      cent of households are "vulnerable" to food insecurity.

      The report acknowledges that the findings are broadly similar to those
      - albeit estimated on a different basis - at the peak of the Israeli
      Palestinian conflict in 2003 but points out that the number of
      Palestinians suffering, including children, are much higher because of
      rapid population growth.

      While recognising that "significant per capita humanitarian aid" is
      helping to contain the problem, the report points out that some action
      taken by families to continue to feed themselves - including the sale
      of land, jewellery and other assets" - will have an "irreversible
      impact on livelihoods". It also points out that limitations to PA
      budget support, the private sector and job programmes because of the
      boycott are likely to exacerbate Palestinians' dependency on
      humanitarian assistance and postpone sustainable improvement."

      Pointing out that Palestinian families have been caught between rises
      in food prices - partly because of interrupted supplies through
      closures - and rapidly falling incomes, it details changes to diet by
      many to ensure enough to eat. These include reductions in consumption
      of fruits, sweets, olive oil, and - normally a staple in Gaza - fish.

      The report also indicates that for other families - including "new
      poor" suffering from loss of PA incomes - there has been a "decrease
      in the quality of and/or quantity of food consumed."

      The UN report comes against a background in which a 2004 survey of
      Palestinian households showed a "slow but steady" growth in actual
      malnutrition - as measured by reduced growth, vitamin deficiencies,
      anaemia and other indicators - among a minority of the population. The
      2004 survey found "stunting" rates of abnormal height-to-body ratio at
      just under 10 per cent.



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