WFP launches emergency operation to help Palestinians pushed to brink of food crisis
Over the next six months, WFP will require some US$ 11.5 million to provide 26,000 metric tons of food aid to the poorest and most needy Palestinians, in particular daily labourers who have lost their jobs as a direct consequence of the Israeli security restrictions.
"The Israeli blockade has had a serious impact on many poor Palestinians in Gaza Strip and the West Bank whose only source of income was casual labour inside Israel," said Mushtaq Qureshi, WFP Representative in the Palestinian Territories.
Tight border controls between Israel and both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have been in force since civil unrest spread across the occupied Palestinian Territories last October. The Isreaeli security restrictions, which include internal closures within the Palestinian areas, have severely hampered the movement of workers and goods, slowing down all economic activities. Thousands of Palestinians no longer have any job opportunities.
According to UN estimates, unemployment rates soared from about 11 per cent in mid 2000 to nearly 50 per cent in May 2001 while income from wages earned by Palestinian workers in Israel plummeted by a staggering 75 per cent. The total loss is estimated at over US$ 2.2 billion to date, equivalent to 40 per cent of the projected Gross Domestic Product of the Palestinian Territories for the current fiscal year.
"Many of the Palestinian casual labourers live from hand to mouth. Unemployment for a long time in such a crumbling economy would surely lead their families to destitution and hunger," Qureshi said.
"Poor families have to make extremely difficult decisions," warned Qureshi, "the more fortunate among them are still relying on their savings, while others have already started to reduce spending and sell assets. These families are likely to change food consumption patterns in a way that affects their nutritional health, particularly of women and children."
Since December 2000, a WFP US$ 4 million emergency operation has provided food aid to the most vulnerable 250,000 Palestinians. This new operation would nearly triple the level of assistance .
Other UN agencies have been implementing small employment schemes with the assistance of the donor community targeting a few thousand unemployed workers to relieve the mounting pressure on the Palestinian poor. But all these schemes have had a limited impact as the majority of workers' families remain dependent on relief assistance.
WFP is the United Nations' front-line agency in the fight against global hunger. In 2000, WFP fed more than 83 million people in 83 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.
WFP Global School Feeding Campaign -- As the largest provider of nutritious meals to poor school children, WFP has launched a global campaign aimed at ensuring the world's 300 million undernourished children are educated.
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