UN food agency running out of supplies in blockaded Gaza Strip

Warning that food is running out in the Gaza Strip, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today appealed to the Israeli authorities to allow consignments to reach the tens of thousands of people there who depend on outside assistance to survive. At the same time, WFP called on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to take all necessary steps to ensure the security of WFP staff and other humanitarian aid workers inside the occupied Palestinian territory so they can work unimpeded. The agency said the extended closures of the Karni commercial crossing between Israel and Gaza have had a devastating effect on food availability in the Palestinian enclave. Stocks of wheat flour are already critically low and some fear there will soon be no basic commodities in Gaza. “Our food supplies have almost run out and the bakeries are also empty. People are now having to rely on their own stocks, which will last only a few days at best,” said William Hart, WFP Deputy Country Director in the area. “The situation is critical, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable, who are dependent on our food aid.”WFP provides food aid to some 430,000 people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including 160,000 in the Gaza Strip. Even before Hamas won parliamentary elections in January, WFP’s operations were 65 per cent under-funded. Since then, the Israeli blockade, combined with deteriorating security in the occupied Palestinian territory, have reduced food supplies to a trickle. Mr. Hart called on all sides to allow humanitarian operations to continue unimpeded. “This means lifting the blockade on aid convoys and commercial food deliveries, as well as ensuring safe conditions in the West Bank and Gaza for our international and national staff to work normally.” As a result of the blockade, flour mills have been unable to provide 8,000 metric tons of wheat contracted earlier by WFP. Wheat flour makes up 80 per cent of the basic diet in Gaza. Other commodities, including sugar, baby formula and dairy products, are also in short supply, causing food prices to soar more than 30 per cent since January. WFP has so far received only 37 per cent of the $81 million required for its two-year operation to provide food aid for non-refugee Palestinians up to 31 August 2007.

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