JERICHO – Two United Nations agency heads today expressed concern at deteriorating food security in the West Bank and Gaza where one in three Palestinian households now struggle to feed their families.
Ertharin Cousin, the Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and Filippo Grandi, the Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) visited a Bedouin village between Jerusalem and Jericho where a food distribution carried out jointly by the two agencies was taking place.
“High food prices and low wages mean that 1.6 million Palestinians don’t know from where their next meal is coming,” said WFP’s Ertharin Cousin. “Yet food security IS security. Food security is a vital component for sustained peace across the region.” Cousin also welcomed a new agreement with UNRWA that will strengthen cooperation in Palestine and throughout the region and address the urgent needs of the population.
Preliminary results of a joint UN survey carried out by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, WFP, UNRWA and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), found that in 2012, a total of 1.6 million people – or 34 percent of households in Palestine – were food insecure, a dramatic rise from 27 percent in 2011. Contributing factors include high unemployment rates, stagnant economic growth, the financial problems of the Palestinian Authority, the continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza.
In nearby Jericho, Cousin met shoppers using electronic vouchers from WFP to buy olive oil, salt and other groceries, most of which are produced locally in Palestine. In the past three years WFP has injected more than US$100 million into the Palestinian economy through local purchase and the redemption of electronic food vouchers. This investment supports local businesses and generates employment.
WFP reaches approximately 650,000 food-insecure, non-refugee households in Palestine – the poorest of the poor. UNRWA provides food assistance to more than one million food insecure Palestine refugees across the Middle East.
During the visit to the village of Khan al Ahmar, the two agency heads signed a Memorandum of Understanding, in an agreement which will deepen and expand ties between the two agencies.
“As well as cooperating more in the fields of food security and nutrition, we can share expertise in logistics, supply chain management and other initiatives, not just in Palestine, but regionally, particularly as we face up to the challenge of the Syria crisis,” said Commissioner-General Grandi.
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