Hungry In Gaza

| March 21, 2003

There are ?no bloated bellies to shock the world into action,? reports Peter Hansen, commissioner general of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in a Guardian analysis. For the hungry in Gaza, there are no ?hollow cheeks and distended stomachs of an African famine.? Nevertheless, the people of Gaza are starving, and unlike the drought-induced famine of Africa, the hunger is entirely manmade, resulting from 30 months of Intifada.

The statistics are astounding. Of the 150,000 Palestinians who ?once depended on jobs in Israel for their livelihood,? less than 10 percent are allowed to leave the occupied territories. ?Anyone with an income or a cousin working abroad supports as many as seven other adults,? writes Hansen. Nearly 25 percent of Palestinian children suffer from ?acute or chronic malnutrition.? Their immune systems are compromised by ?inadequate iron and zinc intake.? More than half of the children don?t get enough to eat. Pregnant mothers and their babies have anemia and are deprived of protein and folic acid.

Prior to the Intifada, 11,000 families living in Gaza and the West Bank received food from UNRWA. In the last two years, the program has grown to 220,000?nearly half of the entire Palestinian population. With 1.3 million recipients world wide, UNRWA is no longer able to meet the demand for food. The organization has turned to the international community for support, requesting $32 million to cover emergency operations for the first half of 2003. To date, about $1.5 million has been received. Sadly, the need for aid in Afghanistan and Africa, and humanitarian concerns about an impending invasion of Iraq ?seem to be holding donors back from making pledges to our emergency fund,? Hansen notes.
-Erin Ferdinand

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