Hunger in the news

3 April 2009

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has launched a food voucher operation, the first of its kind in the Middle East, to assist some 30,000 people in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). The 12-month voucher operation began yesterday in urban areas of the West Bank, where the price of basic food commodities such as wheat flour, sugar, rice, oil, pulses and milk increased by almost 70 percent in 2008. Families will receive eight vouchers per month, with a monthly value of NIS200 (US$50). "The recent fall in global food prices has not yet translated into lower prices in local markets; Palestinian families are now spending about 60 percent of their income on food," said Christine van Nieuwenhuyse, WFP Country Director in the oPt in a press release. She added that the project would improve people's access to food, while at the same time providing a financial stimulus to the local economy.

24 March 2009

Saudi Arabia pledged $20.5 million in Palestinian relief Monday during a news conference in Beirut where a "memorandum of understanding" was signed between a delegate from the kingdom and representatives of four United Nations' programs. The agreement allocates $7.6 million to the UN Development Program (UNDP)/UN Program of Assistance to the Palestinian People (PAPP), $7.6 million to the UN Human Settlements Program (HABITAT), $4 million to the UN World Food Program (WFP) and $1,273,300 to the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)

11 March 2009

The United States is protesting to Israel over seemingly random restrictions on deliveries to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip of harmless goods such as soap and toilet paper, diplomats said Wednesday. Diplomats fear day-to-day crisis management on Gaza was diverting the United States and other Western governments from bigger issues like the goal of restarting peace negotiations for a Palestinian state. In one case, Israel blocked for weeks a World Food Program (WFP) shipment of chickpeas, used to make the Palestinian food staple hummus, the U.N. food agency said.

5 March 2009

US lawmakers demanded Thursday that the United Nations impose tighter controls on the UN agency that manages aid to the Palestinians to ensure no US funds end up in the pockets of extremists. "The United Nations should take immediate steps to improve the transparency and accountability of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA)," said Democratic Representative Steve Rothman. [...] Republican Representative Mark Kirk blasted UNRWA's accounting practices as likely to enable the Palestinian military group Hamas to syphon off some of a new US aid pledge of 900 million dollars for the West Bank and Gaza. If the group managed to grab 10 percent of that package, "the United States taxpayer would be then the number-two financial supporter of Hamas after the government of Iran," he said. Kirk said he would rather see the funds go through the US Agency for International Development, the World Food Program, or the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. "If we insist on providing these funds we should provide them to reputable foreign assistance organizations who are operating under American standards of transparency and accountability," he said.

2 March 2009

Russia will donate food, medication, armored vehicles and civilian helicopters to the Palestinian National Authority to help rebuild the Gaza Strip, Russia's foreign minister said on Monday. [...] According to an official statement from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev delivered by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the conference, "large quantities of flour will be delivered in the near future for Palestinian needs through the UN World Food Program" and two additional Russian cargo planes will deliver medication and other humanitarian aid.

1 March 2009

Palestinians hoping to raise $2.8 billion to rebuild Gaza at a conference in Egypt on Monday will find the path to reconstruction blocked by political and logistical factors, relief agencies say. Egypt, which called for the gathering soon after Israel halted its Gaza offensive in January, says leaders from some 70 countries will attend including the presidents of France and Italy, and foreign ministers from Britain and the United States. But the Islamist Hamas movement which runs Gaza is not invited. Donors will seek to ensure no money reaches the group, and there is no guarantee that Gaza's borders will be opened to let sufficient supplies flow in. [...] Daly Belgasmi, the regional director of the U.N.'s World Food Programme (WFP), said: "It's quite challenging ... but we are working closely with Israel to coordinate our movement". The United States is expected to pledge more than $900 million at the conference, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also stressed that any aid must not benefit Hamas, which the U.S. deems a terrorist organisation.

19 February 2009

Thousands of food-insecure Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are facing an even worse situation after large numbers of livestock and agricultural land were badly damaged or destroyed during Israel’s military assault, which began on 27 December. [...] Chicken and meat are now very costly or unavailable, while fresh fruit and vegetables will be unavailable by May due to destroyed crops, according to the World Food Programme (WFP) in Gaza. An emergency operation was jointly approved by FAO and WFP in January to provide food to 365,000 worst-affected residents in Gaza, including social hardship cases, internally displaced people and farmers to 19 January 2010. “Part of the emergency operation is being revised in light of the war,” said senior WFP coordinator in Gaza Jeannoel Gentile. “WFP has conducted an emergency food security assessment, and the recommendations will be released this week that will confirm or increase the 365,000 figure.” WFP’s distribution has started in schools and the general distribution will start this week, said Gentile, although aid continued during the war.

13 February 2009

The Hamas government in Gaza has said it is trying to help thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes and/or loved ones in the 22-day Israeli offensive which ended on 18 January. According to deputy minister of social affairs, Sobhi Redwan, Hamas has so far spent an estimated US$50 million on emergency relief assistance, but more aid is needed. [...] Hamas has also asked international and local aid organisations, including UNRWA (the UN agency for Palestinian affairs), to coordinate relief efforts with the government. About 900,000 Palestinians have asked UNRWA for food aid. “In general UNRWA donates food to refugees and the World Food Programme to non-refugees, although there has been some overlap since the war,” UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness told IRIN by phone from Jerusalem.

11 February 2009

Israel on Wednesday lifted a full closure on Gaza Strip and opened all commercial crossing points before the delivery of limited aid and basic food stuff, Palestinian officials said. The blockade tightened Tuesday due to the Israeli elections. Ra'ed Fatouh of the crossings' coordination committee said that three crossings will be open Wednesday before aid trucks and fuel needed for running the only power plant in Gaza Strip. [...] "86 trucks will pass through Kerem Shalom crossing, 30 of them will go for the UNRWA and 22 for the World Food Program," Fatouh said.

11 February 2009

The World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed two-month rations to more than 222,000 people in Gaza since hostilities erupted there on Dec 27. The distribution of standard rations such as wheat flour, cooking oil and chickpeas and also one-off emergency packages including date bars, bread, high energy biscuits and canned goods had also benefited more than 150,000 people, according to a WFP statement.