The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) announced on Monday its fears that some 1 million Palestinians in Gaza — half of the territory’s population — “may not have enough food” come June.
In a statement, the agency, which is responsible for providing humanitarian relief to some 6 million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, said that 1 million Gazans who rely on food aid from UNRWA are at risk of going hungry if the agency does not secure at least $60 million in emergency funding in the next month.
According to UNRWA, 620,000 of the 1 million Gazans dependent on food aid are living in “abject poor” — “those who cannot cover their basic food needs and who have to survive on US$ 1.6 per day.”
The remaining 390,000 are “absolute poor,” surviving on about $ 3.50 per day. Without food assistance from UNRWA, the agency says these Gazans “cannot get through their day.”
“This is a near ten-fold increase caused by the blockade that lead to the closure of Gaza and its disastrous impact on the local economy, the successive conflicts that razed entire neighborhoods and public infrastructure to the ground, and the ongoing internal Palestinian political crisis that started in 2007 with the arrival of Hamas to power in Gaza,” the statement quoted Matthias Schmale, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, as saying.
Citing a 2017 UN report that said Gaza would be “uninhabitable” by 2020 and a current unemployment rate of 53%, UNRWA’s statement noted that its services in Gaza are instrumental in keeping the territory “from the brink of total collapse.”
“At a time of increased uncertainty about the future of the Israel-Palestine peace process, UNRWA is one of the few stabilizing elements in a very complex environment,” the statement said.
“By continuing to deliver upon its mandate, the Agency remains a critical lifeline in Gaza, where its services in health and education and its defense of rights and dignity are indispensable to the most of Gaza’s 1.9 million inhabitants.”
Since the US decision to end all of its financial aid — around $300 million — to UNRWA last year, the agency has been struggling to recover, affecting the lives of the millions of Palestinian refugees it supports across the region.
Over the past year, as UNRWA has been forced to scale back many of its programs, refugees have felt the effects of the financial crisis in the form of job cuts, reduced healthcare coverage, and a decrease in school services across the region.
The UN reported at the end of 2018 that despite a rise in humanitarian needs across the occupied Palestinian territory, funding levels for humanitarian interventions declined significantly: only US$221 million had been received, compared to the $540 million requested in the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan.