Question of Palestine home || Permalink || About UNISPAL || Search

Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter

Source: World Food Programme (WFP)
21 June 2007

Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM)


June 2007: Report 9

occupied Palestinian territory – oPt

    \WFP Food Security and Market Monitoring Report provides up-to-date information on access and availability of basic food commodities in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). This report examines food security and markets analysis determinants in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), addressing: (i) the market in terms of price fluctuations and differentials (ii) economic access to food by the poorest households and food availability in rural and urban areas; (iii) areas and populations most affected by food insecurity; and, (iv) recent food security studies.

    This information, coupled with other socio-economic indicators, will enable WFP and other key actors to monitor trends and changes regarding the food security sector, and contribute in strengthening the targeting process of the most food insecure geographical areas and population.

    The Food Security and Market Monitoring Report aims to support WFP and other key actors to monitor trends and changes in the food security sector, and to strengthen food assistance targeting to prioritize the most food insecure areas and target groups.

This report focuses on the food security situation in the Gaza Strip as of 21st June 2007 considering physical and economic access to food and the most affected groups under the current conditions:

1. Background:

June 2007 brought a difficult period for Gaza’s population. Internal fighting manifested in grave levels of violence and widespread destruction of property; while looting confined many Gazans to their homes, unable to access work, fields or markets. The border crossings into Gaza also were and continue to be seriously disrupted. This report examines the issues of food availability and economic access to food under the current conditions.

2. Physical access to food:

While Gaza has some internal production of food (fruit, vegetables and cash crops, chickens) and many families have home gardens or small birds for their own consumption, Gaza relies heavily on the import of wheat flour, sugar, oil, pulses, dairy products and meat/fish to meet the population’s basic needs. Gaza also relies heavily on import of dairy products and agricultural inputs—such as animal feed, pesticide, fertilizer, seeds, chicks, veterinary medicine and water—in order to sustain the internal farming industry.

The current crisis and the disruption of the borders have negatively impacted both the movement of locally produced commodities within the strip and have affected Gazan’s capability to export agricultural produce, thus cutting the revenues of the population relying on farming activities.

There are three main crossings currently available for food and agricultural goods imports from Israel to Gaza: Karni (the main commercial terminal), Sufa and Karem Shalom.

2.1 Karni Crossing:
Upto 19th June 2007, the vast majority of food and goods crossed into Gaza through Karni Crossing. In early 2007, Karni was working at a capacity of around 300 trucks imports.

Gaza’s high dependency on this one main terminal for essential staple food commodities and trade, means that any disruption or delays at this crossing has major repercussions on transport and storage costs, final consumer costs, food availability and revenues for traders (especially in the case of perishable goods).

Table 1: Karni crossing statistics - Closure days 2005-7:

As mentioned in the April 2007 Food Security and Market Monitoring report, the number of closure
days is not the sole indicator of goods import/export. The number of opening hours per day
(sometimes just 2-3 hours daily can qualify the border crossing as open) is an important factors too
in order to estimate the potential loss of commodities’ movements. Moreover, statistics on Karni still
report on truck loads (with limited information on MT amounts) giving only tentative quantities
dispatched as some trucks may be allowed to pass through only when half loaded. Closure days
need to be carefully monitored but analysed in conjunction with additional indicators such as
opening hours and transit of MTs per commodity type (whenever available).

Figure 1: Karni : Number of closure days in 2005-7*1

1 * Source: Paltrade

As of 12th June Karni has been continuously closed, drastically affecting import/export to/ from to Gaza. In the absence of Karni, two other crossings were opened by the Israeli authorities: Karem Shalom, and Sufa crossings.

2.2 Karem Shalom:
Up until June 2007, Karem Shalom crossing between Gaza/Egypt/Israel was used for humanitarian cargo from Egypt and occasionally from Israel. On the 19th June 2007, in the absence of agreement on any other crossing, Karem Shalom was opened for the passage of urgent food and medical supplies.

From 19th June – 24nd June 2007, Karem Shalom was open for 5 days for palletized cargo. Humanitarian supplies and commercial food were imported (including 650Mt of WFP food) . The estimated food imported into Gaza over these five days is found below:

Table 2: Trucks arriving through Karem Shalom (19-24 June)

According to the assessment, with some renovations Karem Shalom offtake capacity could be expanded. However on the 25th June, Karem Shalom was closed due to security incidents at the crossing, indicating that security may become a critical issue affecting the capacity of any of the available crossings.

2.3 Sufa Crossing
On 24th June, Sufa was opened. 56 trucks (1000Mt) of animal feed crossed Sufa crossing into Gaza. On 25th June, 89 trucks of essential food and agricultural supplies crossed Sufa into Gaza (around 1700 Mt)- including 8 trucks of WFP food (200MT).

Unless a steady supply of goods is ensured, food access to Gaza will become increasingly difficult. There is a need to facilitate all possible movement of basic commodities to Gaza (through all possible crossings) to ensure that food availability levels are maintained.

3. Availability of basic food supplies in the Gaza Strip:

Definition of basic food needs:
An ordinary adult requires 2,100 kcal per person per day including 60g protein in order to maintain their nutritional status and live a healthy life. This can be provided through a basic food basket (as the one provided by WFP) containing the following items: wheat flour2, sugar, oil, pulses and salt, so long as the commodities are fortified to avoid micronutrient deficiencies. Ideally however this should be complimented with fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products in order to achieve a diversified diet. [Note that UNRWA also distributes powdered milk in the ration].

All wheat flour imported to Gaza is fortified with essential vitamins and minerals to avoid micronutrient deficiencies; furthermore WFP also fortifies oil with vitamins A and D, and salt with iodine. It is important to note that these basic commodities rely on fuel and water supplies for food preparation. Water is currently available in Gaza and the flow of fuel has been maintained to date. However household access is affected by poverty/purchasing power.

3.1 Availability of all basic food items:
Table 3 illustrates the estimated available commercial stock of basic food commodities in the Gaza Strip as of 21st June 2007 including stock in Gaza.

Basic Food needs in Gaza- as of 20 June 2007:
WFP and UNRWA need 553 Mt of food per day combined (16,590 Mt/month) to meet beneficiary food needs (WFP provides 100% of needs whereas UNRWA provides a partial ration representing 61% of daily needs). The remaining needs are 21,000 Mt per month or 700Mt of commercial basic commodities (wheat flour, sugar, rice, oil and beans).

** This equates to around 87 trucks of basic commodities needed per working day (5 days a week).**3

3 The average truck (semi trailer) is considered to be around 20-25Mt depending on commodities and packing

Table 3: Daily food needs of most urgent basic commodities in the Gaza Strip4

4 Source: Paltrade raw data
5 : Source : Palestinian ministry of national economic (MoNE)
6 Source : UNRWA
7 Humanitarian needs equal UNRWA daily consumption plus WFP daily consumption

Table 4: Estimation of needs to maintain basic agricultural (food) production capacity in the Gaza Strip:

Estimated at a total of 25 trucks per working day (5 days per week)

In total including basic dairy and medical supplies the total estimated basic daily import needs of the Gaza Strip are around 120 trucks per day.

Availability of basic foods items
It is difficult to get a precise idea of the food availability in Gaza as many factors play a role however the following acts as a guide.

WFP estimate that there is around 30 days of commercial wheat flour supply for all essential items in the Gaza Strip. This includes stock in shops, with traders and in non beneficiaries’ homes.

According to the MoNE report dated 25 June 07, basic supplies are running low (including warehouses only- not stores):
Wheat flour - 9 days
Sugar - 3 days
Rice - 15 days
Oil - 14 days
Beans/pulses - 51 days

3.2 Food availability in the markets:

Following last week’s events, there has been widespread uncertainty regarding the crossings, particularly Karni. The recent security threats at Karem Shalom pose additional concerns.

WFP conducted a market survey from the 18-20th June and again on 25th June, to understand the current availability of basic food items to the poorest residents. The following trends were witnessed:

- Shortages of basic commodities in the market, bakeries and mills

- Increases in the prices of basic commodities

Shortages of basic commodities in the market, bakeries and mills
There were found to be particular shortages of wheat flour and sugar in retail markets throughout the Gaza Strip. On the 23rd June, two of Gaza’s six mills had run out of stock, three others were greatly depleted, reporting only 150-500MT remaining; the final mill had 2,000MT in stock (to be distributed by UNRWA). Gaza City mills claimed to have 4-6 days supply of wheat flour as of 25th June).

Shortages of other commodities were also witnessed in retail markets, including: powdered milk and frozen meat/fish/chicken and animal feed. Shortages of commodities have a direct impact on the prices (see next section).

Figure 2: Increase in prices of basic commodities

· Wheat flour: 34% increase (The price survey per governorate shows that the highest wheat flour prices are in Gaza City).
· Milk powder: 30% increase
· Rice: 20.5% increase
· Vegetable oil”: 6% increase
· Peas: 3% increase
· Sugar: 2% increase
· Olive oil: 1.5 % increase

Furthermore, the following trends have been reported, which were found to have affected commercial stocks available to the population:

· Traders have bulk purchased wheat flour and other basic commodities in order to control the prices and gain from the unpredictable situation;

· Fearing price rises and shortages, the wealthier sector of the population have also resorted to hoarding by buying purchased large amounts of basic commodities.

These factors had a quick and high impact on prices, market availability and distribution in the past week. But prices returned to normal after 2-3 days, with the authorities pressuring traders to release some goods.

4. Economic access to food:

Gaza’s economic isolation limits the employment opportunities and stifles economic growth. With restrictions in the flow and access to food commodities, the ability to eat a diversified diet, and achieve a balance in terms of quality and quantity of food intake, might become more and more difficult thus increasing their exposure to micro-nutrient deficiencies, especially in the case of the most vulnerable groups (sick, elderly, children, pregnant women). The purchasing power of the population is directly affected by price increases for basic commodities. Furthermore, last week’s violence meant Gaza was unproductive for an entire week, meaning that those reliant on daily economic activity for subsistence were gravely impacted.

Furthermore the ambiguity over payment mechanisms for Gaza ministries is leading to institutional difficulties. For example, hospitals are running short of food supplies in absence of funds (WFP/ICRC have been responding). Also, the Ministry of Agriculture, which plays a critical role in supporting Gaza’s local production of food stuffs, was badly damaged by last week’s events and is now facing financial difficulties.

5. Food utilization:

The link between healthcare and food security are extremely important in this situation to ensure that food provided achieves the desired goal. The financial breakdown and the collapse of the service rendering capacity of the PA, especially in the health sector, might bring additional strain to the wellbeing of the affected population.

6. Most Affected Social Economic and vulnerable groups:

The entire population will be affected to a greater or lesser extent unless full access for goods in and out of Gaza is restored.

· Social Hardship Cases

Due to the PA financial crisis, 85% of the Social Hardship Cases have received only three cash payments (3500 NIS in total) since March 2006 through TIM. The last payment was disbursed during the first week of April 2007. Without these payments, SHC have no way to pay for their daily needs.

· Children under 5 pregnant and lactating women:

In case of a continuing shortage of food availability in the Gaza Strip for a long period, rates of acute malnutrition may be increased leading to the needs of selective feeding programmes to cover the most vulnerable groups. In this situation specific nutritional food items should be available to care for this group.

· Small farmers and herders

The livestock herders and poultry farmers in Gaza strip are more vulnerable to become food insecure due to increased closures in the Gaza Strip8 (which will limit essential agricultural imports, limiting production capacity and increasing production costs and food prices. Furthermore the lack of export capacity to Israel will affect their income and profitability.


The most affected farmers will be:

- Irrigated vegetable farmers: Comprise 39% of Gaza’s vegetable production and occupy 70% of the cultivated area in the Gaza Strip9.;
- Mango farmers (as the season is just starting);
- Poultry farmers


· Labour losses

The cessation of regular salaries for PA employees, and existing widespread unemployment, has increased the economic dependency ratio to 7.9 in the Gaza Strip. 80% of Palestinians people in Gaza already live under the national poverty line, according to PCBS. Karni’s indefinite closure could dramatically impact the little economic activity remaining.

7. Recommendations:

In order to maintain the current levels of food security there are three main preconditions: Availability:

(i) Enough food must flow into Gaza to meet the populations basic food needs (in terms of calories, micronutrients and protein).

(ii) Enough agricultural production inputs (feed, fertilizer, pesticides, etc) must enter Gaza to allow local production to continue this will serve food availability (mostly vegetables and chicken) supporting both household food security of the poorest and allowing small scale
local trade)
(iii) Fishermen should be able to access the maximum possible fishing grounds in order to provide a local source of animal protein to the population (reference Oslo and Bertini agreements)

Economic access:

(i) To be economically food secure, the economy needs to function enough to ensure that households have money to purchase their basic requirements including food, health and education. In the absence of this households will reduce their food intake in favor of these other basics of life.

Food utilization:

If the population is not in good health they will not make best use of the food in terms of absorption of micronutrients.

If these food security pre-requisites are not met the population will become increasingly dependant on International aid.

Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter