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World Food Programme (WFP)
10 September 2009
occupied Palestinian territory, oPt
UN Begins Distributing Emergency Food Assistance to Bedouins in the West Bank
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) today launched a joint operation to provide emergency food assistance to thousands of extremely poor Bedouin families in the West Bank now hit by drought.
The US$3.2 million programme will provide monthly rations from now until May to 5,200 Bedouin families, who are suffering from the combined impact of drought, environmental degradation and high food, fuel and agricultural prices.
“These families are falling into a worsening cycle of debt and destitution and their fragile livelihoods risk being completely destroyed,” said Christine van Nieuwenhuyse, WFP Country Director in the oPt. “Our food assistance operation will help to prevent these marginalised and highly vulnerable communities from being forced even deeper into poverty and hunger.”
This year’s drought is the second to hit the West Bank in the past five years, leading to an increase in the cost of water and putting great pressure on Bedouin communities, which are not served by the water network and possess only limited water-harvesting equipment.
With few assets or savings, Bedouins are also particularly vulnerable to any increase in the price of basic goods, especially water.
According to the World Bank, poor communities in the area use just a tenth of the internationally recommended amount of water per day. But the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reports that poor Bedouin communities still spend almost half of their income on water, five times as much as communities in other parts of the West Bank.
In addition, Bedouins are no longer able to roam to find new pastures, leading to overgrazing and a high reliance on expensive animal fodder, especially as the drought has reduced available grazing land.
“Food assistance will help our beneficiaries to maintain their way of life by enabling them to spend more of their scare resources on essential non-food needs,” said van Nieuwenhuyse.
She added that this is part of a broader inter-agency programme involving food security monitoring, protection and assistance that aims to give Bedouin families living in Area C, which makes up roughly 60 percent of the West Bank, the chance to improve their nutrition, protect their livelihoods and boost their self sufficiency.
The joint operation will provide a monthly ration of wheat flour, pulses, salt, oil and sugar to around 36,000 Bedouins, including some refugees, living in 209 communities. The food will be purchased and delivered by WFP, while UNRWA will conduct the final distribution to the beneficiaries.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency and the UN’s frontline agency for hunger solutions. In 2009, WFP aims to feed around 100 million people in 77 countries.
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