In Palestine, protracted conflict, economic stagnation and restricted trade and access to resources, coupled with high unemployment and poverty rates, continue to pose serious challenges to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 2 on zero hunger, food security and improved nutrition.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, nearly one third of the population – 32.7 percent, or 1.6 million people – could not afford nutritious food. Food insecurity is high among women – 33.7 percent of families headed by women are food insecure – particularly in the Gaza Strip, where it is around 64 percent. Severely food insecure Palestinians are suffering significant consumption gap and lack the means to cover their basic needs including food, housing and clothing. They are unable to counter the significant consumption gap through economic means or coping mechanisms, which they have already exhausted due to the ongoing and chronic crisis.
In May 2021, Gaza witnessed the most intense military hostilities since 2014, against the backdrop of large-scale unrest in East Jerusalem and across the West Bank. The humanitarian conditions in Gaza – where poverty and food insecurity affect 53 percent and 64.4 percent of the population respectively – are alarming, and follow the collapse of all productive sectors, basic social services and infrastructures. Gaza’s socioeconomic fabric is faltering due to the cumulative impact of 15 years of sea, land and air blockade. Movement restrictions associated with COVID-19 have further increased vulnerabilities.
Poorly diversified diets are causing overlapping nutritional problems. According to national surveys, nearly 50 percent of those assessed had very low levels of essential minerals and vitamins.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has been in Palestine since 1991, providing food assistance to the most vulnerable non-refugee populations and technical expertise to ministries and other partners. WFP supports government efforts to combat poverty, including through inclusive social protection schemes. WFP focuses its activities on areas with a high prevalence of food insecurity, including the Gaza Strip and the southern areas of the West Bank.
Responding to increased needs due to the recent escalations and on-going effect of COVID-19, WFP has expanded its assistance to entire areas of the West Bank, providing food assistance to highly vulnerable non-refugees who may also have lost of their fragile and limited livelihoods. To further strengthen the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, WFP is providing climate-smart agricultural assets such as hydroponics and wicking beds to households to increase their calorie intake and enable them to generate income. WFP also scaled up its resilience-building activities to include greenhouses, vegetable farms, sheep, poultry, and technical and vocational trainings for youth and people with disabilities. These projects reduce people’s vulnerability to external shocks, serve as a safety net, and support livelihoods.
In parallel, WFP is running a social behaviourchange campaign targeting pregnant, lactating, and women with children under age 5 with awareness and cooking sessions, and community activities to combat the high rates of anaemia among them. As part of its efforts to improve nutrition and combat food insecurity.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Palestine
The COVID-19 crisis is having a damaging impact on an already constrained economy, making the lives of the Palestinian people even more challenging. Hundreds of thousands of people have already lost their jobs and livelihoods. Women, children, elderly people and those with disabilities are among the most affected and in need of humanitarian assistance, including nutritious and healthy food.
WFP provides the poorest and most severely food insecure non-refugee populations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank with unconditional food assistance – predominantly in the form of electronic vouchers which people can use to buy food of their choice – and nutrition education to reduce vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
WFP works with national institutions to enhance the capacity of social safety nets to assist poor and vulnerable people, and engages in new partnerships with the Government, other UN agencies and NGO partners around the use and further development of WFP’s voucher platform, which transfers assistance through an electronic card. The platform has proved to be an efficient, flexible and cost-effective tool, and has been made available to several partners.
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