Survey finds high rates of malnutrition and anemia in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

Gazans waiting for bread. Since April 15, 2002, bread is rationed and UNRWA started to distribute its remaining flour reserves (Photo: GP, 2002).

CARE International today released preliminary findings from two surveys focusing on the health and nutritional status of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The surveys are funded and supported by CARE International with a grant from the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The surveys are being implemented by Al Quds University and the Global Management Consulting Group, with technical assistance from Johns Hopkins University and on the ground support from the American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA). A comprehensive report will be available in September.

To download executive summary or initial report click here.


Preliminary results of the first survey, a Nutritional Assessment, indicate an increase in the number of malnourished children with 22.5 percent of children under 5 suffering from acute (9.3 percent) or chronic (13.2 percent) malnutrition. The preliminary rates are particularly high in Gaza with the survey showing 13.2 percent of children suffering from acute malnutrition, putting them on par with children in countries such as Nigeria and Chad.

Other early findings show that the rate of anemia in Palestinian children under 5 has reached 19.7 percent (20.9 percent in the West Bank and 18.9 percent in Gaza), while anemia rates of non-pregnant Palestinian women of childbearing age are 10.8 percent (9.5 percent in the West Bank and 12 percent in Gaza).

A market survey reveals shortages of high protein foods such as fish, chicken, and dairy products amongst wholesalers and retailers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Fifty-two percent of wholesalers and 48.3 percent of retailers reported a shortage of infant formula. Survey respondents indicated that shortages in Gaza were primarily due to border closures that seal the Gaza Strip off from Egypt, Israel and the West Bank. In the West Bank, survey respondents said food shortages were caused by a combination of road closures, checkpoints, curfews and military conflict.

The second survey, a Sentinel Surveillance System, assesses the ability of families to purchase food. More than half the Palestinian population surveyed reported having to decrease food consumption; the primary reasons cited were lack of money (65 percent) and curfews (33 percent). Fifty-three percent of households said they had to borrow money to purchase food, with Bethlehem, North Gaza, Jericho and Gaza City containing the most households in this category. Roughly seventeen percent of households had to sell assets to buy food, with rates highest in Gaza City and Khan Younis. Thirty-two percent of all households reported buying less bread, potatoes, and rice, which are staples of the Palestinian diet.

The household survey is based on a three-stage stratified random sampling of 1,000 households in the West Bank and Gaza. Preliminary findings include malnutrition and anemia data for 936 children and 1,534 non-pregnant reproductive age women (15 – 49 years of age). The preliminary Sentinel Surveillance Study findings represent cumulative data from four rounds of collection (1,280 households thus far) and include selected data applying to food security from this ongoing assessment. The total number of one-time households to be interviewed over the life of the Survey is 10,240 (20 households in urban and non-urban clusters every two weeks in all 16 districts of the West Bank and Gaza). These households are not the same as those in the Nutritional Assessment. All data collectors are students in the Al Quds School of Public Health and have medical and/or public health Bachelor or Masters degrees and previous data collecting experience.

A more comprehensive report will be released in September.

Media Contacts:

Atlanta: Lurma Rackley, CARE USA,, 404.979.9450

Westbank/Gaza: Lucy Mair,, +972-(0)54-542-751