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World Food Programme

Rapid Food Security Needs Assessment in Gaza Strip

Effect of Import Restrictions and Freeze on Exports on the Food Security in Gaza Strip

Survey Report
December 2007


Project Coordination and Analysis
Caterina Galluzzi, VAM Unit, WFP oPt

Food Security Analysis and Statistics
Salah Lahham, VAM Unit, WFP

Nutrition analysis
Cecilia Garzon, WFP

Preliminary analysis of qualitative and quantitative surveys results and data entry
Amer Madi, Al Sahel
Ahmad Uwaidat, Al Sahel

Field testing and field work
Nabil Al-Ghoul and the Gaza Strip field teams, Al Sahel

Special thanks to:

The governmental and non governmental institutions that provided important feedback during the interviews, as well as sector associations and cooperatives. MoH for providing up-to-date nutrition information

WFP Gaza office staff for its support and cooperation.

All the interviewed households in Gaza Strip for their resilience, patience and hospitality.

Executive summary

In the wake of the June 2007 events and the tightened closure regime imposed on the Gaza Strip, WFP and Al Sahel carried out a survey on the humanitarian situation with a view to assessing the impact of the current crisis on the non refugee population. The analysis is based on two components: 1) a quantitative survey on a subset of 422 non-refugees households and 2) a qualitative study entailing focus groups interviews.

The overall conclusion of the study is that the restriction on imports and freeze on exports have significantly reduced the livelihood viability of Gazas population, bringing larger segments of the population into the vulnerability circle. Amidst an environment of rapidly increasing prices, loss of employment, and significantly reduced cash income, economic access to food has become a serious concern for a growing proportion of the population in Gaza since June 2007.

Since June 07 there has been a sharp decline in food security levels affecting all areas and socio-economic livelihoods groups equally. The non refugee population have also witnessed a significant increase in food prices and poverty leading to a concerning rise in the proportion of their expenditure spent on food, Finally there has also been a worrying decline in nutritional indicators for underweight and anemia in children 9-12 months witnessed since June, All these indicators point towards an alarming situation in the status of Gazas non refugee population.

If the status quo is maintained, the economic disintegration will continue and wider segments of the Gazan population will be become vulnerable. The unemployment levels will most likely increase to include the overwhelming majority of private sector workers. If this scenario materializes virtually all Gazan population will become highly or totally dependant on humanitarian assistance in the form of food aid as well as non-food interventions (i.e. cash assistance, health subsidies, job creation and labor support).

The following paragraphs summarize the main finding of the study:

Quantitative findings

Socio economic

Labor force Q3 data report that the overall economic dependency1 of the Gazan population increased sharply from 5.9 to 7.4 between June and September 07.

The survey findings show that 14.2 percent of households have at least one member who lost their job since June 2007. 58.3 percent of those who lost their jobs are the main breadwinners for their households.

52.4 percent of households reported a decrease in monthly income

The mean household monthly income decreased by 22 percent since June 2007, from 1358 NIS before June 2007 to 1,058 NIS while the median income dropped by 30 percent from 1,000 to 700 NIS.

69.9 percent of the households earn less than NIS 1000 per month now, compared to 54.5 percent before June 2007. This is equivalent to less than 1.2 USD/person/day.

The CPI in the Gaza Strip for September 2007 registered a 4.2 percent increase over the previous month, owing largely to the significant increase in the food and beverages and tobacco CPI, which registered a 5.7 and 17.7 percent increase respectively

Food security

The findings show that 62 percent2 of the households’ expenditure is spent of food, this result shows a worsening trend and brings the food expenditure in Gaza in the range of the least developed countries (such as Somalia).

62 percent of the households reported that their monthly expenditure decreased in conjunction with their decrease in income

Out of those households that reported a decrease in expenditures, 96.6 percent decreased their expenditure on clothing and 93.5 percent on food

71 percent of the surveyed households have reported decreased ability to produce or to purchase enough food to eat since June 2007

61 percent (301,823) of the non refugee population of the Gaza Strip is food insecure, 11 percent (54,427) is vulnerable to becoming food insecure, 10 percent (49,479) is marginally secure and 18 percent (89,063) is food secure. An increase of 3 percent (approximately 22,000 individuals) food insecure non refugees compared to 2006 CFSVA findings.

Underweight (children 9-12 months) increased from 2.5 percent to 4 percent and anemia increased from 70 percent to 77,5 percent compared to June-September 2006 records3

Qualitative findings
Impact of the June 2007 export freeze and import restriction

All of the households visited during this assessment revealed that their consumption levels of many food items has been significantly reduced as a result of the loss of purchasing power and increasing prices. The most frequently mentioned food items which have been cut by the households visited are: meat, fruits and sweet products.

Reportedly, retailers (especially smaller retailers) reduced their carrying capacity of certain food items due to the increasing prices and limited their stock of highly perishable foods (especially frozen and refrigerated foods) in fear of losses should electricity outages become more frequent.

Approximately 30 percent of the fishing boats are currently not being used due to the lack of feasibility of fishing, the reduction in the permitted fishing distances, and/or the lack of spare parts and maintenance equipment.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that fishermen’s income has decreased by half since June 2007

Cash crop farmers reported that the productivity per dunum has decreased by 25-35 percent due to the lack of essential fertilizers, pesticides and plastic sheeting

Local production/supply farmers income is said to have dropped by 40 percent since June 2007 due to increasing cost of production and excess supply of cash crop produce

Interviews with local cooperatives suggest that the percentage of layoffs is in the realm of 40-50 percent, with most layoffs taking place in the cash-crops sector.

Approximately 209,800 individuals (farmers, workers, private sector, petty trade, fishermen etc) are currently being affected by the import restrictions and export freeze.

Part I Introduction

1.1 Rationale

Following Hamas take over of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 an economic blockade was imposed on the Gaza Strip; there was a drastic reduction in the amount of commodities imported to Gaza (restricting imports to a list of fifteen basic items,4 preventing the import of raw materials and suspending the customs code for all goods bound to Gaza), furthermore all exports originating from Gaza were frozen.

This report includes a quantitative and a qualitative assessment of the impact of the import restrictions and export freeze on the food security of Gazas population since June 2007. It gauges the effect of the restrictions on the population and quantifies the extent to which their food insecurity has been affected.

In an attempt to complement and add value to previous assessments and studies, this assessment focused on examining the impact of recent events on the overall vulnerability and food insecurity of the non refugee population. Particular attention was given to verifying the vulnerability of the different livelihood groups identified though the United Nation’s Consolidated Appeals Process, as well as identifying other vulnerable groups that may have been overlooked.

In order to achieve the stated objective, an integrated survey was carried out, composed by:

Literature Review: A comprehensive review of the most recent reports covering the humanitarian, food security, nutritional status, and market conditions in the Gaza Strip was carried out to get a snapshot of the situation in Gaza.

In-depth, Semi-Structured Interviews: More than sixty in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with key informants and organizations

Group Interviews: Based on the findings of the literature review and the semi-structured interviews, five group interviews were conducted with the following groups to validate and discuss the findings of the literature review and the semi-structured interviews: Cash-crop farmers; Small farmers for local consumption, small Wholesalers and Retailers; and staff of Municipalities.

Quantitative: A Rapid survey was administered to 422 non-refugee households. The surveyed households were identified using a stratified cluster systematic random sample in which 42 clusters were formed using two variables, namely: Governorate (5 Governorates), and locality type (urban and rural).

Part II Quantitative Survey findings

The total survey sample was 422 non refugees households, distributed over 42 cells (area segments) on the basis of a rapid assessment questionnaires designed by WFP in order to grasp the changes since June 2007 and including sections based on the Impact questionnaire so as to update the CFSVA food insecurity levels. The questionnaire was field tested and revised before the teams were fully deployed. The survey took place during the first two weeks of October 2007.

2.1 Changes since June 2007

2.1.1 Changes in employments status

According to the PCBS Labor Force Survey report for the third quarter of 2007, the unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip increased from 26.4 percent in the second quarter of 2007 to 32.9 percent in the third quarter 2007 (an estimated 13,000 people lost their jobs5). With this significant increase in unemployment, the economic dependency ratio increased sharply from 5.9 to 7.4 (a 25.4 percent increase in the three months following the June 2007 events).

Keeping in mind that the Gaza Strip industrial and agricultural sectors’ outputs have traditionally been dependent on the Israeli market for export opportunities, the above statistics support the anecdotal evidence that the restrictions on imports and the freeze on exports are the main reasons for the increase in unemployment and the decline in productive activities, which consequently caused a decline in households’ purchasing power and general livelihood.

Survey results show that 68.5 percent of households have at least one household member who is employed. The majority (58.3 percent) of the households however have just one employed person. The overwhelming majority of the households have no female employed persons.

The survey findings show that 14.2 percent of the households have at least one member who lost his/her job since June 2007. 58.3 percent of those who lost their jobs are the main breadwinners of the household. The governorate with the highest rate of job losses is Gaza (19 percent) followed by Rafah (16 percent). All (100 percent) of those that lost their job in Deir al Balah were the main breadwinner, followed by 80 percent in Khan Yunis.

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