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Gaza’s Economy Is Reaching Rock Bottom

Gaza’s Economy Is Reaching Rock Bottom And Needs A ‘Kick-Start’ – Un Food Agency

New York, Aug 28 2006

Describing growing poverty and destitution in Gaza, the United Nations food agency today called for the economy to be given a “firm kick-start,” warning that its own food assistance to the territory was only a temporary solution to the problem of declining livelihoods and nutrition.

“The economy is really reaching rock bottom. Industries which were once the backbone of Gaza’s economy and food system, such as the agriculture and fishing industries, are suffocated by the current situation and risk losing all viability,” said Arnold Vercken, World Food Programme (<"http://www.wfp.org/english/?ModuleID=137&Key=2225">WFP) Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory.

“WFP food assistance is acting as a band aid in an attempt to prevent a further decline of livelihoods and nutrition among the poorest. Any improvement in the current humanitarian situation would only occur if Gaza’s economy were given a firm kick-start.”

Gaza’s infrastructure lies crippled, affecting the lives of the 1.4 million population on a daily basis, WFP said, adding that power and water supplies remain low and unreliable.

Farmers have been heavily affected by sporadic closures which have cut the agricultural cycle, limiting supply of vital inputs and isolating the Gaza market from external trade. No exported goods left the Gaza Strip in July. The fishing industry – already in a steep decline due to restricted waters and pollution – has been paralyzed by a total closure of the Gaza coastline since 25 June.

WFP’s is the latest warning from the UN about the deteriorating situation in Gaza in less than a week, and the agency also said that the situation in Lebanon must not be allowed to overshadow this.

“Some 70 percent of Gaza’s population are food insecure and the vast majority are dependant on assistance from the United Nations to cover their basic needs.”

WFP has responded to the rising poverty by increasing the number of people assisted to 220,000 from 160,000, it said, adding that over a six-week period from 1 July to 15 August, some 5,000 tons of food had been transported into Gaza.

WFP faces such severe funding shortfalls that it has received only 44 per cent of the $103 million it requires in its current two-year operation in the Palestinian territory, launched in September 2005.

ENDS

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