(Photo credit: Arab News)
Thousands of Palestinian families in the occupied territories have been pushed below the poverty line, struggling to afford basic commodities and food products due to a rise in prices and the prevalent food crisis looming over West Asia as a whole.
This has created unrest in areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Last month, demonstrators demanded government action and a solution to the surge in food costs.
“If the government is unable or unwilling to intervene, we will be calling for its departure,” a Palestinian protest organizer, Rami al-Jnaidi, said on 6 June, reinforcing the already prominent anti PA sentiment that has built up among Palestinians since the Israeli-backed governmental body murdered activist Nizar Banat last year.
A World Bank report released on 20 June said that the poor nutritional status of the Palestinian population was a concern, and that there was a “prevalence of micro-nutrient deficiencies” among vulnerable groups, such as children, and pregnant and postnatal women.
“In the West Bank and Gaza … poor households have limited access to micronutrient-rich foods, such as red meat, fresh vegetables, and milk,” the report added.
According to Jawad Abu Saleh, advisor to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, at least one-third of Palestinians are facing a lack of food security from the COVID-19 pandemic alone.
Abu Saleh said that the crisis has been worsened by the Israeli siege on Gaza, which prevents the entry of essential food products and medicine into the strip, and the Israeli policy of preventing farmers from reaching their land.
For several years, Israel has also been spraying crop-killing herbicides on Palestinian farmlands near Gaza, destroying the livelihood of farmers and severely damaging crops.
With Russian and Ukrainian markets constituting around 29 percent of the world’s wheat exports, the conflict between the two has contributed to the surge in food prices across the Palestinian territories and the region as a whole, particularly in Yemen.
“Global food chains demand global solidarity in times of crisis … Without concerted action to address the supply and affordability of food, the conflict in Ukraine risks deepening the world’s food crisis, particularly in [West Asia] and North Africa,” a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report from March said, paying particular attention to Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria.
According to a poll released by the Wattan Media Network in Ramallah on 26 June, as a result of unaffordable food costs, 50 percent of Palestinian families have cut back on their expenses; 22 percent have resorted to selling their properties; and 21 percent have taken on extra jobs.