With increasing numbers of Palestinians becoming dependent on international food aid, the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, James T. Morris, on Wednesday began in Jerusalem a three-day visit to review first hand WFPï¿½s efforts to provide food aid to Palestinians impoverished by deteriorating security and economic conditions over the past two years.
ï¿½We are hopeful that the new efforts to bring about a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will improve the humanitarian conditions in the Territories soon,ï¿½ Morris said.
Humanitarian needs in the Palestinian Territories have been rising sharply alongside the rapidly deteriorating economic situation. Unemployment among Palestinians now stands at 67 percent.
For the past 12 months, WFP was able to bring in nearly 45,000 tons of food to ensure the basic needs of nearly half a million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The UN food aid agency plans to extend its emergency operation after the current $18-million programme comes to end on June 30.
Israeli security measures make WFP operations in the Territories extremely difficult. WFP has 48 national and 9 international staff members working in the Palestinians Territories.
ï¿½Coping mechanisms are exhausted and poor families are selling vital assets such as jewelry, livestock and even land in order to purchase food and basic necessities. Many are caught in a downward spiral of indebtedness that results in a deepening poverty,ï¿½ said WFP Representative in the Palestinian Territories Jean-Luc Siblot. ï¿½Palestinian families have had to change their dietary habits, consuming cheaper and less protein-rich foods.ï¿½
WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency. In 2002 WFP fed 72 million people in 82 countries including most of the worldï¿½s refugees and internally displaced people.
For more information:
Heather Hill, Public Information Officer , WFP/Jerusalem, Tel. +972/2/5401340; Khaled Mansour, Public Information Officer, WFP/Cairo, Tel. +20/2/7545045.