Under the two year PRRO which started in September 2005, WFP has been assisting 480,000 food insecure non refugees throughout the occupied Palestinian territory (West Bank and Gaza Strip). WFP beneficiaries assisted fall within three categories: (i) Social Hardship Cases: 39 percent of the caseload, (ii) New Poor: 59 percent of the caseload, (iii) Institutional Feeding: 2 percent of the caseload.
Since January 2006, a financial crisis of the PNA combined with a dramatic increase in closures have led to a rapid escalation in poverty, market price increases of basic food commodities and critical exhaustion of coping strategies. These trends have in turn led to a sharp increase in food insecurity leading to increased reliance of WFP beneficiaries and growing needs for food assistance. WFP have been following the situation closely and started to prepare a contingency plan from February 2006 to prepare for an increased response should the situation continue.
By April 2006, there were increasing signs that a humanitarian crisis was unfolding in the oPt. On this basis, in May 2006, WFP/FAO conducted an Emergency Food Security Needs (EFSN) review to quantify the increased needs. This review identified a 14% increase in food insecurity (c.f. the Needs Assessment Framework figures of July 2005); affecting a total of almost 2 million Palestinians including a new group of 200,000 extremely vulnerable non-refugees previously able to cope. Hence in order to reduce the impact of the current crisis on the most vulnerable non-refugee population and in response to the increased needs, WFP intends to activate its contingency plan as of June expanding the number of people assisted by 25% to 600,000 non-refugees.
BACKGROUND - REASONS FOR THE INCREASED FOOD INSECURITY LEVELS:
The EFSN review highlighted the most important trigger factors accentuating food security levels to be: (i) impact on household income of the cut in Palestinian National Authority (PNA) direct payments and suspension of tax revenue payments, and (ii) increased closures/effects of accelerated barrier construction: (iii) avian influenza
(I) The financial crisis in the PNA accentuated by the cut of direct funding to the PNA and Israel's suspension of tax repayments:
The financial crisis in the PNA is directly affecting all sectors of society in oPt, exacerbating an already difficult situation. The cut of direct funding to the PNA has directly resulted in:
- Delayed payment of an estimated 165,000 PNA employees; low level income employees with no savings are the most affected.
- Halt of cash assistance payments to the Social Hardship Cases from the Ministry of Social Affairs (since February 2006); increasing their reliance on the timely delivery of WFP rations);
- Reduction in support to the extended family members of the PNA employees (estimated at over 1,000,000 people) who are dependant on their relatives' support. These people are now facing severe difficulties covering their basic food needs;
- Critically low levels of cash in the local economy and increasing signs of a severe economic recession affecting markets and agricultural production cycles.
(II) Increased closures/effects of accelerated construction of Israel's security barrier:
- Repeated and extended closures since January 2006 have prevented increasing numbers of employees from having timely access to their place of work and farmers to their land affecting their income and threatening their livelihood.
- In the West Bank, and particularly in the Gaza Strip, the impact of increased closures and trade restrictions on suppliers is resulting in mounting market/food trade disruption and fragmentation, a shortage of basic food commodities and is contributing to the liquidity crisis. The loss of export capacity in Gaza has led to tens of millions of dollars of losses monthly to the Palestinian economy.
Gaza Strip closures:
The main crossing point for goods from Gaza to Israel (Karni crossing) has been closed for over 50 percent of the current year. There have been two main impacts of this closure on food security:
- Palestinian produce from the Gaza Strip (tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries) has been unable to cross via Israel to international markets resulting in tens of millions of dollars of losses, weakening the Palestinian economy and increasing poverty among farmers and labourers. As a consequence, the Gaza market has become flooded with the locally produced commodities, reducing prices below production costs.
- The closures have stopped all import of goods from Israel resulting in food shortages and inflated prices for basic goods. Gaza is completely reliant on Israel for the supply of basic food commodities (wheat flour, sugar, oil) and many other essentials such as dairy products and meat. The price increases are affecting the poorest sector of society most heavily.
- Furthermore, WFP is facing increasing difficulties in providing timely food assistance to the most vulnerable and food insecure population in Gaza owing to repeated closure of the main Gaza terminal (Karni crossing).
West Bank barrier/ closures:
The accelerated completion of Israel's West Bank Barrier, combined with strict permit restrictions, internal travel restrictions between West Bank towns and now additional closures since 12th March (6 weeks to date), preventing even permit holders (workers and traders) from accessing work in Israel are creating an incredibly difficult situation for inhabitants.
- The entire population of the West Bank is affected on a daily basis by these restrictions and the income of tens of thousands of people is being affected. Prices of basic commodities are increasing owing to the travel difficulties faced by traders and farmers which are affecting the traditional rural- urban markets. Furthermore continued land expropriation and destruction of livelihood assets to make way for the West Bank Barrier and settlement infrastructure continue to constitute a shock to some household economies with a higher impact on poor families.