September 30, 2010
"Sometimes, for a day or two we don't even have bread, nor flour to make bread. There's a store nearby that, when we are truly desperate, lets us take a bag of bread or something simple, on credit. I owe them a lot of money for the food I've brought from them, but I still can't pay them," states Umm Khamis Khattab who lives in Gaza's Bureij refugee camp and has no source of income.
The World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) define food insecurity as people not having "adequate physical, social or economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs." In the Gaza Strip, where unemployment levels soar up to 65 percent, and more than 80 percent people are food aid dependent, the average income per day per person is just two dollars. According to the WFP and FAO, the food insecure in Gaza are an alarming 61 percent, with another 16 percent vulnerable to food insecurity.
With food prices highly inflated under the siege Israel has imposed on Gaza since shortly after Hamas's election in 2006, few families can afford meats, fish, or fresh produce. The 2008-2009 Israeli war on Gaza further destroyed meat and poultry production besides devastating the agricultural sector. Ten percent of poultry and 17 percent of cattle and ruminants were killed. Eighteen percent of Gaza's productive agricultural lands were destroyed, along with another 17 percent of greenhouse-grown vegetables, says the United Nations (UN).
The combination of this agricultural destruction and the mortal Israeli imposition of a no-go zone on Gaza's border lands, encompassing roughly one-third of Gaza's arable land means that as of June 2009, 46 percent of agricultural land in Gaza was either inaccessible or out of production, impacting on the availability of fresh and nutritious produce in the Strip and affecting over 60,000 people earning a living from agriculture alone.
At the same time, fishermen are restricted by Israel to fishing within a mile of Gaza's shores during to Israeli imposed restrictions. While the Oslo accords granted Gazan fishermen the right to fish 20 nautical miles off Gaza 's coast, Israel has incrementally and violently reduced the fishing limits.
The FAO reports a decline in total fishing catch by 47 percent between 2008 and 2009, with fishers subject to daily shooting from Israeli gunboats in Gazan water.
"Every day in Gaza, more and more people become hungry, more new people come for help," says Dr. Al-Wahaidi, Director of Health for Ard al-Insan, Gaza's prime centre for the hungry and malnourished. "And there's no difference between city dwellers and camp residents, except that maybe camp families have more of a social network to rely on, and country residents have more possibilities for growing produce for themselves."
According to Amani Jouda, Nutrition Officer for the World Health Orgnanisation (WHO) in Gaza, 74 percent of children aged 9-12 months are anaemic, up from 65 percent in 2009, as are another 32 percent of children aged 7-15 years, and 45 percent of pregnant women in their first months of pregnancy.
The UN Millennium Project Hunger Task Force cites the importance of local agriculture and livestock in reducing hunger.
Ard al-Insan's Dr. Al-Wahaidi sees it clearly. "The main reason for hunger in Gaza is Israeli politics on the people Gaza. Gaza is different than other places. When we have a disaster, we cannot leave our small piece of land to find work or safety elsewhere. We are trapped inside."
(This is an edited, version of the article, referenced below, its been edited for clarity)