UNRWA Begins Distributing 2015 Food Assistance to Gaza Refugee Population

RAMALLAH, February 5, 2015 (WAFA) – UNRWA Thursday said it has begun distributing its 2015 emergency food assistance to needy refugee families in the Gaza Strip.

In a press release, UNRWA revealed that the move comes as part of a wider framework to mantain its support of Palestinian refugee families in Gaza who are unable to meet their basic food security needs.

According to UNRWA the food assistance will include about 868 thousand refugees in Gaza, while keeping into consideration the size of the family and their poverty level.

This emergency food assistance comes in a time where Palestinian refugee families in Gaza continue to face worsening economic conditions as a result of the siege and restrictions imposed on the entry of goods and movement of people, in addition to the latest Israeli aggression that targeted the entire Gaza Strip.

UNRWA categorized families whose income is no more than $1 a day as living under extreme poverty, while families whose income is no more than $3 as living under the poverty line.

UNRWA is responsible for providing food assistance, shelter and protection to more than 4.7 million Palestinian refugees in general. They are distributed in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

According to Robert Turner, UNRWA’s Director of Operations in the Gaza Strip, 70% of Gaza’s population is refugees, with more than 1.2 million under UNRWA’s care. He predicted that the number of those refugees will increase to 1.5 million by the year 2020.

Israel has imposed a tight blockade since 2007 after Hamas won the democratic legislative elections and took over power in the strip.

Since then Gaza witnessed three deadly wars that resulted in the death of over 3700 Palestinians in airstrikes and shelling. Over 100,000 homes were destroyed in the 2014 war alone, leaving hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees homeless for yet another time in their lifetime.

The ongoing blockade of the Strip includes restrictions on movement, entry and exit from the only two crossings in Gaza, the fishing in the Gaza waters and farming in land adjacent to the boarders with Israel, to name a few.

UNRWA has recently announced it was forced to suspend its cash assistance program in Gaza to tens of thousands of people for repairs to damaged and destroyed homes and for rental subsidies to the homeless.

It said that while $720 million is required for rental subsidies and repairs to over 96,000 Palestinian refugee families, whose homes were damaged or destroyed during last summer’s conflict, UNRWA has received only $135 million in pledges, leaving a shortfall of $585 million.

UNRWA said $100 million is urgently needed in the first quarter of 2015 to allow families with minor damage to repair their homes and to provide ongoing rental subsidies, including to the thousands of families who left UNRWA-run collective centers and found alternative rental accommodation.