In Palestine, WFP Reaches Out To Food Insecure West Bank Bedouins
By Colin Kampschoer
16 July 2015
Aziz, a West Bank Bedouin from Area C, lives in Um Al-Khayr - once one of the richest nomadic communities in the area. But much like the rest of the 30,000 people living in the area, residents of the village in the south Hebron Hills face major restrictions on movement and construction.
“Thirty years ago Um al-Khayr was one of the wealthiest Bedouin communities in the region. We had a herd of about 1,600 sheep, now we only have about 200”, says 29-year-old Aziz.
The restrictions have constrained the residents' access to water sources, education, agricultural grazing and housing. Their main source of income - herding and grazing - has become unviable, making them among the poorest Palestinians.
Approximately 26 families live in the village. Most of the men follow their fathers’ footsteps and herd sheep and goats or live off small-scale farming. The semi-nomadic community lives mostly in tents and informal shacks as houses in the village are frequently demolished.
Nevertheless, villagers are steadfast and refuse to leave the lands where they have lived for decades.
The gradual encroachment of settlements and a lack of access to water have undermined the viability of herding livelihoods and increased the communities’ dependence on food assistance.
WFP's food assistance
"Because of the food rations I don’t have to sell my sheep anymore to feed my children"
All 30,000 Bedouins living in the area receive The World Food Programme's (WFP) monthly food assistance. This helped Aziz and his family keep a few heads of sheep. “Because of the food rations I don’t have to sell my sheep anymore to feed my children,” he said. The majority of Area C residents cannot secure their daily food needs.
WFP ensures people have access to food items that cover the majority of their daily nutritional needs. The food ration includes daily staples like fortified wheat flour, vegetable oil, chickpeas or lentils and iodized salt. In 2014 and 2015, this assistance was possible thanks to multilateral donors and with the generous support of Canada, Japan, Belgium and Switzerland.
Hope for a more promising future
A demolition order was issued against Aziz’s house that barely stands to begin with. “I hope to repair the walls and the roof to make it more liveable especially during the cold winters,” he says. “I even hope that one day I can set up little projects, such as beekeeping and maybe a vegetable garden.”