Some 46 per cent of the Palestinian households are "food insecure" or in danger of becoming so, according to a UN report on the impact of the international boycott on the Hamas-led government. The unpublished draft report, the first of its kind since the boycott was imposed when the Hamas government took office in March 2006, was cited Thursday by the London-based Independednt.
The report, jointly produced by the UN's World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization, paints a bleak picture of the impact on food consumption and expenditure throughout the occupied Palestinian territories. It indicates that the situation is "more grim" in Gaza Strip where four out of five families have reduced their spending - including on food - in the first quarter of last year alone.
The report acknowledges that "traditionally strong ties" among Palestinian families tend to reduce the possibility of "acute household hunger".
The report is the latest of a series detailing deepening Palestinian poverty as a result of both closures blocking exports from Gaza Strip and the international and Israeli boycott of the PA.
The UN report says 34 per cent of households - with income below $1.68 per day and/or showing decreasing food expenditures - are "food insecure" . The WFP officially defines "food security" as "the ability of a household to produce and/or access at all times the minimum food needed for a healthy and active life". It goes on to say that 12 per cent of households are "vulnerable" to food insecurity.
While recognising that "significant per capita humanitarian aid" is helping to contain the problem, the report points out that some action taken by families to continue to feed themselves - including the sale of land, jewellery and other assets" - will have an "irreversible impact on livelihoods".
Pointing out that Palestinian families have been caught between rises in food prices - partly because of interrupted supplies through closures - and rapidly falling incomes, it details changes to diet by many to ensure enough to eat. These include reductions in consumption of fruits, sweets, olive oil, and - normally a staple in Gaza - fish.
The report also indicates that for other families - including "new poor" suffering from loss of PA incomes - there has been a "decrease in the quality of and/or quantity of food consumed."