Friday, May 2, 2008

Blockade puts Gaza on brink of serious food crisis, says UN

By Donald Macintyre in Gaza City
The Independent

"Destitution and food insecurity among Gaza's 1.5 million residents has reached an unprecedentedly critical level, according to unpublished UN findings that they now need "urgent assistance" to avert a "serious food crisis" in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The report revealing that Gaza's population has already passed the internationally-agreed threshold at which it needs concerted measures to prevent a "deterioration in their nutrition" has been drafted on the eve of a donors' conference to discuss Palestinian political and economic prospects in London today.

Showing that Palestinians are having to spend a higher and higher share of their shrinking incomes on food, the findings are that the proportion of Gazan incomes now going on food is 66 per cent – significantly higher than the 61 per cent recorded for Somalia. Seventy per cent of Gazans are at a "deep poverty" income level of $1.20 (60p) per head per day or less......

The growing emergency comes on top of the devastation of Gaza's economy by the nine-month closure of crossings to commercial exports and imports, growing fuel shortages, and a warning by John Ging, UNWRA's director of operations in Gaza, to British MPs on Wednesday that it was on the point of an "explosion" which could lead to a repeat of a breakout from the territory.

In Jerusalem the WFP's Kirstie Campbell said the budget for the next two years of food distribution to the Palestinian territories would cost $50m more than planned.

The WFP has already cut a food aid programme to 130,000 farmers in Gaza designed to stop them selling land and other assets as a result of not being able to send out fruit, vegetable and flower exports because of the blockade.

Ms Campbell said last night: "At the moment we are less and less able to assist what is a growing need. Hunger today is widespread in Gaza on the ground and it will not be long before we face a growing problem of malnutrition in Gaza."......"

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