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18 April 2002

- The United Nations World Food Programme has airlifted nearly 40 tons of high-energy biscuits for displaced Palestinians caught up in the fighting in the West Bank. The plane load of biscuits arrived in Tel-Aviv from Italy today.

The biscuits will be distributed immediately to displaced people as well as to institutions which have been completely cut off and without cooking facilities.

“The situation is particularly worrying for those Palestinians who have escaped from the fighting. They have had to leave their destroyed homes to take refuge in churches, mosques and other public buildings where they cannot cook. As a temporary measure, we will distribute high energy biscuits until the situation improves and they can get a hot meal,” said Khaled Adly, Director of WFP's Cairo regional bureau.

For the moment, it is difficult to establish the exact number of displaced people. Restrictions on access are hampering not only deliveries of humanitarian assistance throughout the West Bank, but also any assessment of the needs.

In the last week, WFP has received two important donations: US$ 4.3 million dollars from the European Community and US$ 2.3 million from the United States. The American contribution is in cash for the immediate local procurement of fortified wheat flour and other commodities. “Fortified wheat flour is of critical importance in a situation like this to reduce iron deficiency in women and children,” said Khaled Adly.

With these two significant contributions, the total amount sought by WFP - US$ 16.7 million - is 80 percent funded. The operation will assist 371,000 Palestinians, some of whom have lost their jobs in Israel since the closure of Gaza and the West Bank.

Since the operation began and following the deterioration caused by fighting in the Palestinian territories, the number of Palestinians in need of help has increased enormously. The extent of additional needs will only be known after a full assessment has been carried out," said Khaled Adly.

Hospitals, orphanages, clinics, health centres and homes for the elderly are among those institutions in need. The number of wounded has risen in hospitals where there is not enough food. WFP, in collaboration with UNRWA, has been sending trucks of rice, vegetable oil, canned meat and sugar to institutions into Ramallah and Bethlehem and is waiting for clearance from the Israeli authorities to allow them into Nablus, Tulkharem and Jenin.

Because of the increasing needs, WFP requires urgent resources to avert a break in the supply. Stocks available in the Palestinian territories are only sufficient to maintain a general distribution for less than one month.

WFP is distributing 947 metric tons of food from its warehouse to 94,700 Palestinians in the Gaza strip, as a contingency measure in case there is an escalation of military activity in the region. WFP is also preparing special programmes and plans for hospitals and institutions in Gaza, for which it will be seeking more funding.

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WFP is the United Nations’ front-line agency in the fight against global hunger. In 2001, WFP fed more than 73 million people in 82 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.

For more information please contact:

Trevor Rowe

Chief Spokesperson
Tel. +39-06-6513-2602

Khaled Adly

Director Regional Office
Tel. +20-2-7547630

Christiane Berthiaume

Public Affairs Officer

Abby Spring

Public Affairs Officer
WFP/New York
Tel. Tel. +1-917 3029325

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