Question of Palestine home
26 February 2010
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Agenda item 3
PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF ALL HUMAN RIGHTS, CIVIL,
POLITICAL, ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS,
INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT
Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter*
SUMMARY OF COMMUNICATIONS SENT AND REPLIES RECEIVED
FROM GOVERNMENTS AND OTHER ACTORS
1. In the context of his mandate, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food receives a large number of communications alleging violations of the right to food and related rights worldwide. Such communications are received from national, regional and international non-governmental organizations, as well as intergovernmental organizations and other United Nations procedures concerned with the protection of human rights. This addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur contains, on a country-by-country basis, summaries of communications, including urgent appeals, allegation letters and follow-up relating to the Special Rapporteur’s mandate for the period 5 December 2008 to 5 December 2009 and the responses received until 6 February 2010. The Special Rapporteur urges all Governments and other actors who have not yet done so to respond promptly to his communications and, in appropriate cases, to investigate allegations of the violation of the right to food and related rights and to take all steps necessary to redress the situation.
II. SUMMARY OF COMMUNICATIONS SENT TO GOVERNMENTS
AND REPLIES RECEIVED
49. On 24 December 2008, the Special Rapporteur together with the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, sent a joint allegation letter to the Government of Israel regarding the closure of all commercial crossing points between the Gaza Strip and Israel and the obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the territory since 5 November 2008. These measures had allegedly resulted in shortages of food, medicines and fuel and they threatened to have serious effects on the food security situation of the 1.4 million Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip. According to the information received by the Special Rapporteurs, on 17 November 2008, the Erez border crossing had briefly reopened to allow a convoy of 33 truckloads carrying humanitarian aid and medical supplies to enter the Gaza Strip. However, this had been the first time for the passage to be authorized in two weeks. Reportedly, on 26 November and 4 December 2008 crossings had reopened again to allow in a limited amount of food assistance and fuel supplies. However, it had appeared that these supplies, which had been brought in during these re-openings, had not been sufficient to alleviate the shortages of basic essential items such as fuel, fresh food, meat and fruits, and that they were insufficient to build reserves for meeting daily the basic food needs of the 1.4 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. Despite these re-openings, it had been estimated that the level of imports had remained well below the level of last year. The unpredictability of humanitarian assistance and delivery has also affected the organization and conduct of assistance programmes, thus contributing to undermine the food security situation of beneficiaries. It was alleged that eighty per cent of the Palestians in the Gaza Strip are living under the official poverty line and depend on humanitarian assistance, including food aid. Restrictions of the entry of supplies which were essential for the production of food, such as fuel, fertilizers, plastics and seeds, had been alleged to have undermined the ability of the population to produce part of its own food. The Special Rapporteurs had also informed that food prices had continued to increase due to limited stocks, so levels were beyond the purchasing power of the large part of the population that did not have the ability to generate income allegedly as a result of the restrictions imposed since 2006. It was also reported that the global rises in food prices over the previous 12 months and reduced domestic agricultural production due to adverse weather conditions that had exacerbated the already precarious food security situation of this population. It was deemed useful to recall that these territories were highly dependent on imports and that only 4 percent of dry staple food - including cereals and pulses - consumed there was produced locally. It was estimated that rates of food insecurity had risen from 34 percent in 2006 to 38 percent in 2008. This had particularly severe impacts on children, who were the first victims of malnutrition, and whose physical and mental development was severely affected by such shortages. According to the information received, the ongoing blockade had had the effect of decreasing the humanitarian assistance provided by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to the 830,000 refugees in the Gaza Strip. It was also alleged that food reserves in UNRWA distribution centres in Gaza had been gradually depleting and were in need of essential supplies such as wheat, powdered milk and oil, in order to guarantee the food security of its beneficiaries. Reportedly, on both 17 and 24 November 2008, the UNRWA were also allowed to bring into Gaza eight trucks of humanitarian aid each day, after having been unable to do so since 5 November 2008. It appeared that the agency needed a minimum of 15 trucks per day to sustain normal humanitarian operations in the territory. Reportedly, on 18 December 2008, UNRWA had suspended its emergency and regular food distribution programmes in the Gaza Strip until further notice. According to reports, the suspension had been due to the depletion of the agency’s stocks of wheat flours which was a result of the ongoing crisis and limited border crossing access for humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, the reports received also indicated that the supply of industrial fuel, which had been donated by the European Union and was needed to power Gaza's power plant, had been blocked. Reports indicated that the Nahal Oz fuel pipeline, which was the only line to import fuel into the Gaza Strip, had remained closed since 5 November 2008 except on two days, 11 and 12 November 2008, in which it had been partially reopened in order to allow the inflow of approximately less than 230,000 litres to the Gaza power plant's industrial gas. Reports also indicated that on 24 November 2008, 440,000 litres of industrial gas had been pumped through to Gaza’s power plant. According to these reports, between 1 and 17 November 2008, the Gaza power plant had received a total of 1,345,430 litres or (24 percent) of the 5,700,000 litres it should have received under normal circumstances over a period of 16 days. It was alleged that due to lack of fuel, Gaza's power plant had been forced to shut down completely on 9 and 10 November and since 13 November it had required rolling blackouts of up to eight hours per day in most areas of Gaza. The information received indicated that the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company had set a daily power cut schedule whereby each household in Gaza City and in the middle area of the Gaza Strip had no power for 16 hours per day, 8-12 hours/day in northern Gaza, 4-8 hours/day in Khan Younis and 2-4 hours/day in Rafah. In particular the blockade on fuel deliveries and the reduction of electricity supply had disrupted water and sewage services which were dependant on electricity to operate. The information received alleged that 15 percent of Gaza’s population, around 225,000 people, had not been receiving an adequate amount of drinking water due to lack of fuel. There had also been a severe shortage of cooking gas in the Gaza Strip and more than 30 pita-bread bakeries out of the existing 47 were no longer operational. As a result, the bread rationing scheme remained allegedly in effect. It was also reported that the closure of bakeries had affected UNRWA’s school feeding programmes that had been targeting around 200,000 school children. In addition it appeared that chicken farms had been particularly affected by the shortage of cooking oil which together with the lack of animal feed had led hatchery owners to destroy their animals, thus losing sources of livelihood to feed themselves and their families. Finally, it was also reported that access to quality health care was deteriorating due to closure of hospitals and lack of medicine supply. In addition, shortage of fuel and electricity materials reportedly had affected essential maintenance and rehabilitation of health infrastructure, and particularly hit maternal and neo natal units. It was also reported that even though the number of patients referred to treatments outside Gaza had increased, access to such care remains constrained. It was estimated that only 66 per cent of requests for medical permits had been approved from January-August 2008, compared with 80 per cent during the corresponding period in 2007.
50. On 29 December 2008, the Government of Israel sent a reply regarding the above-mentioned communication expressing regret that the Special Rapporteurs did not pay any serious attention to the right of Israeli residents in the southern part of the country. The Government also stated that the allegations expressed in the communication did not correspond to the status of Gaza Strip after the Israeli withdrawal in 2005. It further stated that since its withdrawal and Hamas takeover, all responsibilities for the situation in that region lie with Hamas. The Government finally informed the Special Rapporteur that the communication has been forwarded to Jerusalem for a response.
The Special Rapporteur regrets that at the time of the finalization of this report, the Government had not transmitted any further reply to his communication.