Emergency Food Security Needs Assessment Report Jun 2004

  1. Summary

WFP began operating in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) in 1991 when a series of smallscale interventions targeting specific vulnerable groups were implemented through local Palestinian institutions. Throughout the 1990s and up to 2002, WFP activities ranged from relief, recovery and development operations to targeted emergency operations.

In response to the grave deterioration of the situation in the oPt resulting in a humanitarian crisis, WFP launched an emergency operation in 2002 targeting the most vulnerable non-refugee Palestinians (500,000 beneficiaries) with emergency food aid. The initial goals of the WFP operation which was to provide technical and financial assistance to the newly established Palestinian Authority in the oPt, were replaced with the more pressing goals of saving the livelihoods of the Palestinian people.

The emergency operation was renewed in 2003, based on targeting criteria determined by an Emergency Food security assessment carried out jointly by FAO and WFP in 2003. This assessment has since served as the baseline upon which to update information and determine the future direction of WFP in the oPt. Accordingly, WFP conducted a follow-up of the assessment in spring 2004. The findings of this assessment were used as the foundation for the 2004-2005 WFP targeting scheme of the emergency operation in the oPt.

The overall conclusion of the results of the 2004 assessment is that food aid is an appropriate intervention for 480,000 non-refugee food insecure persons, out of a total of 752,000 non-refugee food insecure population in the oPt. The two most vulnerable categories of food insecure that will consequently receive food aid continue to be "Chronic Poor" and "New Poor". However based on the 2004 assessment findings, the New Poor was retargeted to exclude New Poor Traders , who appeared as less food insecure than other vulnerable groups. These conclusions were translated into WFP's operational document for 2004-2005 - EMOP 10190.2.

2. Background Information

- The Contextual Situation.

The humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory has entered its fourth consecutive year in 2004. Despite the response of humanitarian agencies to escalating poverty and food insecurity by providing emergency assistance, Palestinian living standards continue to decline since the beginning of the Al Aqsa Intifada, as the economy is falling into a sharp recession.

The deterioration of Palestinian living standards in the oPt can be explained by a number of different factors and is primarily a direct cause of Israel's security measures and occupation. The imposition by Israel of heavy movement restrictions known as "closures" within and around West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the form of a combination of checkpoints, closed areas, and the "separation barrier" has had a very negative impact on the Palestinian population and devastating effects on the local economy. House demolitions, land leveling, confiscation of Palestinian land and other such measures intended to address Israel's security concerns also have serious humanitarian consequences.

These security measures inflicted on the Palestinian population have resulted in a massive increase in unemployment levels reaching 30 percent in the West Bank and 40 percent in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, the World Bank estimates that two out of five Palestinians are living under the poverty line at USD 2.1 per person per day, while 16 percent of the population is living in absolute poverty, with less than USD 1.6 per person per day. The ongoing crisis and closure policy in oPt also impact on the continued deterioration of the nutritional status of the most vulnerable population. CARE and the Al Quds University conducted a study in 2004 which points to a prevalence of malnutrition, and particularly nutrient deficiency.

Overall, the social safety nets and coping strategies employed by the Palestinian people are consequently stretched to their limits. The most vulnerable strata of the Palestinian population is completely dependent on external aid and has resorted to desperate coping strategies which severely compromise their livelihoods and ability to recover from their current sate of food insecurity in the long term.

Humanitarian agencies responded to the escalating poverty and the falling of living standards by providing emergency assistance in the form of food aid in the oPt, mainly through WFP and the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA). The food aid in the oPt is shared between these two main agencies due to the presence of UNRWA which was established specifically to address the needs of the refugees ( 41% of the total population). The mandate of WFP in oPt is therefore to assist only the non-refugee food insecure population. Overall, UNRWA and WFP are providing food aid to 1,480,000 beneficiaries in the oPt, which amount to 39% of the total population.

- The 2003 Baseline Report

In order to streamline the emergency food aid operation in the oPt, FAO and WFP conducted a Food Security Assessment for the occupied Palestinian territories in the spring of 2003. This study is the baseline for food security in the oPt, and its findings serve as the base upon which WFP updates its information. WFP carried out a key role in the development of the qualitative part of the assessment to determine the percentage and the geographic distribution of the food insecure Palestinians and proceed to vulnerability profiling to determine "who" are the food insecure and groups-at-risk.

The 2003 baseline analysis of the food security situation in the oPt resulted in determining estimates of food insecurity levels and establishing the following socioeconomic profiles of the food insecure population:

"Chronic Poor": This group contains four sub groups:

- Households with chronically ill and disabled members that demand special medical dietary and care assistance

- Women headed households, including households that have lost the breadwinner during the Intifada and are unable to support themselves and receive insufficient and/or irregular external assistance

- Large families with unskilled breadwinners

- Long-term low income workers intermittently unemployed

"New Poor": This category included:

- Farmers (including Bedouins) who lost their business due to (i) damage or demolition of property and land confiscation (ii) lack of access to markets whose land has been confiscated or who have lost access to markets.

- Traders whose shops or homes have been demolished or who have lost access to markets

- Waged workers who have lost their jobs or cannot access their workplace due to closure. This sub-category includes men in agriculture or construction, and women in textiles or horticulture.

- Households "locked" by Israeli controlled security zones (restricted to the Gaza Strip), such as fisher folk who are denied access to the sea by the Israeli Defense Force in the southern Gaza Strip.

In response, WFP launched in July 2003 an Emergency Operation (EMOP 10190.1) to the benefit of 530,000 non-refugee Palestinians falling within the two aforementioned categories.