Cairo, 19 September 2006 - WFP has begun supplying Gaza with 2,050 metric tons of fortified wheat flour, valued at US$2.6 million, donated by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to assist 50,000 desperately impoverished Gazan families.
The flour, which was procured in Egypt, started entering the Gaza Strip this week.
“This Saudi donation – coinciding with the start of Ramadan – reaches Gaza at a critical time. The Gaza economy has ground to a standstill and poor families are really suffering – unable to cover their most basic needs,” said Arnold Vercken, WFP Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
Acute cash crisis
The closures and hostilities in the past months, coupled with tight economic sanctions on the Palestinian National Authority, have destroyed Gaza’s infrastructure and resulted in an acute cash crisis, spiralling unemployment and an exhaustion of coping strategies.
A growing number of people are now totally dependent on food assistance.
In June alone, WFP assessed that seven out of 10 Gazans were unable to cover their basic food needs on a daily basis – an increase of 30 percent from a year ago.
One meal a day
Many impoverished families are now living on only one meal a day, made up largely of bread and cheap vegetables.
Fish and meat have largely disappeared from their diets. “Visiting our beneficiaries, I am horrified to see how basic their lives have become. The food we provide to poor families enables them to feed their children with a balanced nutritious diet, keeping them in school and off the streets,” said Vercken.
As a result of the growing economic crisis, WFP increased its caseload in July by 25 percent to 220,000 people, many of them being among the chronically poor, who have no income and are selling off whatever assets they have.
Situation becoming desperate
With the situation growing increasingly desperate, the agency may have to consider increasing its caseload further.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has been a major donor to WFP in the past, is now considerably increasing its overall support to WFP.
Saudi Arabia has given some US$29 million so far this year, to support WFP operations in the Middle East Africa and Asia.
Last month, WFP received a US$2 million Saudi donation to assist people hit by the conflict in Lebanon.