A Palestinian man walks at the site where a tower building was destroyed in Israeli air strikes in Gaza City [Suhaib Salem/Reuters]
World Food Programme (WFP) has started providing emergency assistance for more than 51,000 people in north Gaza in response to rising humanitarian needs among families affected by the recent escalation of conflict in the impoverished strip.
Working alongside its partners, WFP said that it's providing cash support which will benefit both people who now need assistance for the first time and people who were already receiving WFP assistance but have had to leave their belongings behind and go and stay with friends or family elsewhere.
“For people who have lost or fled their homes, one of the most pressing needs at the moment is food. The quickest and most effective way we can provide support is with cash, in the form of e-vouchers. Food is available for the time being and many local shops are still open, including those we have already contracted for our regular e-voucher support,” said WFP Representative and Country Director in Palestine Samer AbdelJaber.
However, the closure of crossings into Gaza may soon cause a dearth of commodities, including food, and push up food prices. Prices of fresh produce are already on the rise as farmers are unable to reach their land.
WFP said in a statement that it's currently working with partners to scale up coordination, establish protocols and determine emergency food assistance needs for people seeking safety in the United Nations shelters. WFP’s cash-based voucher electronic platform is also being used by other humanitarian agencies to provide non-food and other basic assistance to affected people.
According to the statement, WFP is also providing technical assistance to assess humanitarian needs in Gaza and is supporting – through the WFP-led logistics efforts – the coordination of humanitarian cargo that may need to enter the area if borders remain closed.
“People in Gaza have already been living on the edge and many families struggle to put food on the table. Their situation has deteriorated even further over the past year due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions,” says WFP Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Corinne Fleischer. “The majority of the population cannot withstand further shocks and the current situation could unleash a crisis that could spill into the entire region.”
"In Gaza, WFP regularly supports around 260,000 people through cash-based transfers or cash assistance for food, direct food rations, and livelihood support projects. More than two-thirds of Gaza’s population of two million were already suffering from food insecurity before the current escalation of conflict," the statement added.
WFP noted that poverty and unemployment, the two key drivers of food insecurity in the region, were already high prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent deterioration in security conditions. More than half of Gaza’s population live in poverty – 53 percent – and unemployment is at 45 percent.
“WFP requires an additional US$31.8 million to be able to continue providing regular food assistance to more than 435,000 vulnerable people in Gaza and the West Bank for the next six months. To respond to the current emergency, WFP urgently requires US$14 million to be able to provide emergency assistance over the coming three months for 160,000 affected people in Gaza and 60,000 people in the West Bank. The number of people in need may increase further," the statement explained.
“The ongoing military escalation has caused significant suffering and destruction. WFP appeals for an immediate de-escalation and cessation of hostilities in Gaza and Israel," the statement concluded.