Days after the WFP warned that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are becoming destitute, Saudi Arabia has responded with a donation of US$2.6 million to purchase food for 50,000 of the worst affected families.
The Committee for the Relief of Palestinian People has donated the funds to WFP to purchase nearly 5,000 metric tons of food.
In Gaza we are seeing more people, especially children, begging on the streets, or rummaging through garbage bins for food or something to sell
Arnold Vercken, WFP Country Director in the oPt
This will be enough to feed 300,000 non-refugee Palestinians, 50 percent of WFP beneficiaries in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), for one month.
The 100-kilogram Saudi food basket will include five commodities: fortified wheat flour, pulses, fortified vegetable oil, sugar and iodised salt.
“The Saudi people and government have been very generous this year, assisting WFP operations in the Horn of Africa, Pakistan and now in the occupied Palestinian territory as well,” said WFP Executive Director James Morris.
“We hope this donation will encourage other parties in the region and elsewhere to come forward to support our severely under-funded projects in the occupied Palestinian territory at this critical time. We are profoundly grateful to Saudi Arabia for its growing humanitarian commitment.”
Abdulaziz Arrukban, WFP's Special Ambassador and the first Saudi citizen to volunteer with the UN food aid agency, said after attending a ceremony with the Saudi Committee in Riyadh on Tuesday to receive the donation: “This is not the first time that the Saudi Committee has provided support for WFP efforts in the oPt. We are grateful to the committee and its chairman, HRH Prince Nayef ben AbdulAziz for their humanitarian efforts and continued support.”
According to a recent WFP/FAO study, food insecurity – WFP’s measure of physical and economic access to sufficient food - in the oPt has grown by 14 percent since last year.
That means that nearly two million Palestinians, 51 percent of the population, are unable to meet their daily food needs without assistance.
In response to this deteriorating situation, WFP has expanded the number of poor Palestinians it assists by 25 percent (from 480,000 to 600,000 people).
Pushed to the limit
“We are seeing increasing numbers of impoverished people whose means of survival are being pushed to the limit. Many families are being forced to reduce their number of meals to just one a day,” warned Arnold Vercken, WFP Country Director in the oPt.
“Children are most vulnerable to any disruption of their diet and it is essential to ensure that they continue to receive a balanced diet during this period to prevent a deterioration in their health”.
WFP believes a serious crisis is unfolding in the oPt, resulting from the non-payment of 165,000 government employees, affecting one million people directly, and the increase in closures imposed by Israel in response to increasing security threats.
Gaza: critical situation
In Gaza the situation is becoming critical, owing to its economic isolation, and is exacerbated by the outbreak of avian influenza, which has removed poultry (the cheapest source of animal protein) from the Gaza diet.
“The situation is dragging the exhausted population into deeper poverty and debt. Loss of earnings and rising unemployment coupled with increased market prices are crippling the poorest sector of society, leading to mounting despair. Many poor families can no longer afford meat, fish, dairy products or olive oil,” Vercken said.
“In Gaza we are seeing more people, especially children, begging on the streets, or rummaging through garbage bins for food or something to sell.”
Pledges and contributions have come in from around the world but they are still insufficient to cover the costs of US$110 million for WFP’s two-year operation, which has so far been only 32 percent funded since it began last September.