Press Release  UNITED NATIONS

Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

PAL/1917
18 April 2002

CONTINUED UN CONCERN AT GAZA FOOD SHORTAGES

GAZA, 18 April (UNRWA) -- The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has protested to the Israeli military authorities at the tight security measures imposed on the Gaza Strip that are causing shortages of basic foodstuffs.

The Agency has loaned 250 tonnes of flour to bakeries in Gaza City and the northern Gaza Strip to enable them to keep producing bread. However, this supply will run out within a matter of days. Long queues for bread have become a daily feature of Gaza life since the Israeli military, citing security concerns, closed the Karni commercial crossing into the Strip on 29 March.

In the last three days only four truckloads of flour, four of garlic and three of onions have been able to enter the Gaza Strip. In total, the Strip requires 400 tonnes of flour daily to meet the population's needs. At present, only one of Gaza's three flour mills is in operation, but due to restrictions imposed by the Israel Defence Force it is only able to produce 65 tonnes per day. It has stock to last 10 days, but because of the internal Israeli closures that divide the Strip into three sections it is unable to distribute the flour in all areas.

In Gaza, a 110-pound sack of flour has risen in price by 50 per cent in the last week. Lentils, rice, cooking oil, sugar, powdered milk and infant formula are also in short supply and increasing in price. With over 65 per cent of the refugees in Gaza living on less than $2 a day, these price rises are causing untold hardship to an already vulnerable population.

UNRWA's own supplies for refugees are not being allowed into the Gaza Strip. The Agency has 1,500 tonnes of flour waiting to enter from the port of Ashdod and another 4,000 tonnes that need to enter in the coming weeks, if widespread hunger is to be avoided within the refugee population.

Lionel Brisson, UNRWA's director of operations, said: "It is incumbent on the Israeli authorities to ease their grip on the Gaza Strip immediately. Not to do so will amount to a humanitarian strangulation of a civilian population. I urge the Government of Israel to open Karni crossing and allow the free flow of goods into the area."