Between 10 and 21 May 2021, hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza escalated, with destructive strikes from air, land and sea targeting government buildings, houses, and public service facilities across Gaza. The humanitarian consequences of the conflict have been devastating, exacerbating the already-present impact of restricted movement of people, reduced access to resources and basic social services, and economic stagnation caused by the blockade. Poverty and unemployment—the key drivers of food insecurity in Palestine— are at their peak: in Gaza, nearly seven out of ten people are poor, half of the workforce is unemployed, and seven out of ten households are food insecure. Before the May crisis, more than 80 percent of wage employees in the private sector in Gaza earned less than minimum wage, compared to 7 percent in West Bank.
This assessment explores the impact of the escalation on food security across Gaza to inform and assist Food Security Sector partner planning. The assessment draws on primary and secondary data, available published reports, and results from focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews.
The assessment results underline the critical economic situation in Gaza prior to the escalation of the conflict, with increasing poverty, unemployment and food insecurity levels. In early 2020, the Ministry of Social Development assisted some 80,000 families in Gaza through social protection programmes. During the pandemic, an additional 35,000 COVID-19 adversely affected families were identified for assistance in Gaza. During the 11 days of conflict in May 2021, the number rose again with 96,000 conflict-affected individuals receiving voucher food assistance from WFP. The assessment recommends continued support and implementation of the national cash transfer program and complementary social protection and food assistance programs to ensure vulnerable households can continue to meet their minimum food consumption requirements.
The study has identified several groups that became vulnerable and food insecure as a result of the recent conflict escalation, including 2000 internally displaced families, 20,000 laborers who lost their income, many owners of economic facilities, and farming communities. The impact of the conflict varies in type and intensity ranging from short-term to permanent economic consequences and limiting the ability to sustain livelihoods. The assessment recommends reinforcing and expanding assistance programmes supporting livelihoods, resilience-building and income-generating opportunities for poor and food insecure households. The assessment further recommends providing additional assistance to households who were affected by the May conflict, either through the aforementioned livelihood, resilience-building, income generating programs, or through an extension of shortterm humanitarian assistance.
Though availability of food in local retail markets was relatively unaffected during the conflict, access to markets was a challenge and prices of agricultural products significantly decreased due to the restrictions on product exports. This resulted in significant losses for farmers. Availability and prices of agricultural products may be further negatively impacted by closures of the commercial crossing and importation bans on agricultural inputs. The study recommends further assessments of the agricultural sector, concerted advocacy for movement of goods, and supporting farming communities in rehabilitation of production assets which could help in sustaining food supplies in the local market while supporting the livelihoods of some 50,000 farming families.