Food Insecurity in Palestine
For nearly 80 years, Palestine has faced a complex humanitarian crisis connected to both internal and external political conflict that has caused unrest, instability and the loss of many lives. The exacerbation of the already dire situation — especially in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip — has led to economic instability, the loss of homes, restricted trade and access to essential resources and high unemployment rates, all of which have resulted in rising poverty rates. Currently, achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 regarding food security is the greatest challenge, giving rise to initiatives that focus on fighting food insecurity in Palestine. 

Food Insecurity in Palestine in Numbers

As it stands, 33.6% of the population (about 1.8 million people) are moderately or severely food-insecure. However, this national average does not highlight the significant differences within the country, with 24% of the 1.8 million people residing on the West Bank and 75% in the Gaza Strip. 

An overwhelming 51% of food-insecure people are children, while 49% are adults and 1% are elderly. An important fact to note is that 76% of food-insecure people are refugees, while 24% are non-refugees.

The Main Causes 

While several factors are contributing to food insecurity in Palestine, here are some of the primary causes:

  • Prolonged conflict
  • Economic stagnation
  • Restriction on trade and access to resources
  • High unemployment rate
  • High poverty rate

After decades of turbulence and violence, there are, fortunately, several organizations dedicated to fighting food insecurity in Palestine. Here is some information about them.

Action Against Hunger

Founded in 2002, Action Against Hunger is a global humanitarian organization taking action against the causes and effects of hunger. Currently, it is aiding Palestinian families by supporting small businesses as well as promoting economic empowerment for women and young people. This is primarily achieved through providing food, money and mental health services, whilst also improving access to clean water, good hygiene and safe sanitation. In 2022, the organization was able to help 525,314 people – 519,000 people were reached by the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Programs and 6,000 people’s lives were improved due to the Food Security and Livelihoods Programs. 

SKT Welfare

SKT Welfare, which provides urgent aid and sustainable relief to millions of disadvantaged people around the world, has been aiding Gaza in Palestine since the conflict in Gaza erupted in 2014. The Muslim charity is fighting food insecurity in Palestine through hand-delivering food packages to families in need. Each food parcel provides a family with enough food for an entire month and contains basmati rice, groats, red lentils, brown lentils, cooking oil, white bean, salt, salsa, jam, sugar; dates, olive oil, tea, feta cheese and soap. The majority of the food distributions are carried out in Khuza’a, a beautiful Palestinian community that the surrounding conflict has unfortunately hit very hard. 

Muslim Hands

Originating in Nottingham, Muslim Hands is another Muslim international aid organization that has been running since 1993 and helping Palestine since 2007. It provides food, medical care and education to families and over the past 10 years, has raised more than £1 million for children in Gaza and reached 2,500 orphans in the region. Additionally, last year Muslim Hands provided Qurbani (the religious sacrifice of an animal during the Eid Al Adha) that fed nearly 315 Palestinian families. Also addressing the root of poverty in the region, Muslim Hands helped create 25 sustainable jobs and its agricultural production helped 100 families. 

World Food Program USA

An American organization dedicated to tackling global hunger, World Food Program USA (WFP) has been fighting food insecurity in Palestine by providing life-saving food assistance to the most vulnerable and food-insecure non-refugee Palestinians. The organization places a large focus on starting projects that, in time, offer people some financial stability during turbulent times. For example, WFP carries out a range of resilience-building activities, such as vegetable farms, greenhouses, poultry and sheep, alongside technical and vocational training for young people and people with disabilities. In turn, these activities not only provide food sources, but they also generate an income for several people.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

Finally, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East is also fighting food insecurity in Palestine during a crucial time of need. The UNRWA zakat program provides both food and money to Palestinian refugees, helping them get a meal on the table. In this time of crisis, access to not only food but also psychological and medical care and support are urgently needed and provided by UNRWA. 

For as long as the conflict is prevalent in Palestine, hopefully, the innocent people affected continue to receive the help they so desperately need, and in turn, over time, the poverty rates will decrease.

– Sheherazade Al Shahry
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Palestine
Due to the ongoing conflict in the region, poverty in Palestine has been a notable topic. Below are 10 facts about poverty in Palestine that describe the statistics of the issue, yet portray hope for the future.

Facts About Poverty in Palestine

  1. Statistics show how poverty in Palestine is rampant. Approximately 26 percent of individuals fall into the poverty rate of having an average monthly household consumption of 985.8 Jordanian Dinar, which is equivalent to approximately $1,389.44 USD. The deep poverty rate is 13 percent. Lastly, the real GDP growth rate is zero percent.
  2. Palestine’s history lends itself to high unemployment rates. The 2016 Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics report shows that only 32.5 percent of Palestinians were working full time. Since 2013, the unemployment rate has steadily increased from 23 percent to approximately 27 percent. The highest unemployment rate is between the ages of 14 to 24, with 41.7 unemployment rate.
  3. Education does not extend much past the preparatory phase as about 38 percent of Palestinians receive this education. This is the average education for Palestinians. Only 13 percent achieve a Bachelor’s degree and on the other end of the spectrum, approximately three percent are illiterate. Following this pattern, as Palestinian children age, the educational attendance rate drops significantly. From 6 to 11 years of age, 98.4 percent attended school, while of those who are 18 years of age and older, only 11.4 percent attend education. Overall, about 40 percent of young Palestinians are attending schools.

The Role of Oxfam International in Palestine

  1. According to Oxfam International, 80 percent of the Palestinian population relies on humanitarian aid to survive. Many people living in the occupied territories have little access to basic services. Millions are denied the right to free movement to access their basic needs. These issues lead to the extreme poverty in Palestine.
  2. Since 1950, Oxfam International has been working in the occupied territories partnering with approximately 60 organizations to help the most vulnerable communities of Gaza, East Jerusalem, and Area C, “the 61 percent of the West Bank where the government of Israel maintains full military and civil control.”
  3. In these communities, Oxfam International helps citizens in a variety of sectors improve their quality of life and to reduce the poverty in Palestine. This organization advocates for land rights and rights of women and other marginalized groups. Oxfam also helps improve the quality of farms and help women start businesses. Overall, they “campaign for lasting peace, security for all civilians, respect for international law and an end to the blockade.”

Sustainable Development Goals Affected by Poverty

  1. In Palestine, 1.3 million do not have access to, or cannot afford, nutritious food. This is approximately 22.5 percent of the population. Food insecurity affects families headed by women more, accounting for approximately 36 percent of families, as opposed to the 21 percent of families headed by men that are food insecure. These statistics are even higher in the Gaza Strip, where 39 percent of families are food insecure.
  2. In 2015, the United Nations created the Sustainable Development Goals, which include Zero Hunger, food security, and improved nutrition. With the ongoing conflict, economic stagnation, restricted trade and access to resources, high unemployment and high poverty rates, Palestine faces difficulties reaching these goals.
  3. In 1991, the World Food Programme started assisting communities with high prevalence of food insecurity. Food insecurity is increased with the constant conflict, restricted movement, and reduced access to land. This organization is helping Palestine reach the Zero Hunger sustainable development goal.
  4. Other Sustainable Development Goals affected by the restricted movement and armed conflict include good health and well-being, quality education, and reduced inequalities, among others. These goals show how interconnected conflict, poor education and other injustices are to poverty.

These facts about poverty in Palestine demonstrate how help is available, but more programs led by organizations like Oxfam and the World Food Program are necessary to expedite Palestine’s ability to reach the Sustainable Development Goal of no poverty.

– Jenna Walmer

Photo: Flickr