“For Gaza, the food crisis is as bad as a military attack”

In the Gaza Strip, which imports 95 percent of its grain, they look with dismay at rising food prices. Due to the Israeli blockade and the violence of recent years, there is already no buffer anymore. “This is a slow death.”

“In 2007-2008, we also had a food crisis here. I remember we had no cooking oil and no gasoline. If there was oil, we used it as fuel for the taxis. Then you sat in a car full of smoke, but that was the only way to get around. Palestinian Asmaa Abumezied has lived all her life in Gaza, where she works as a consultant for Oxfam. In recent years, she has more often been confronted with a lack of certain foods, such as pasta and chocolate. But this year, the situation is unusual.

»The price of flour has increased by 24 percent, the price of lentils by 18 percent, table salt now costs 30 percent more. For many people, it has become very difficult to pay for their food. 62 percent of the population is food insecure, which means that they do not know when they will get food on the table and what food it will be.

62 percent of people are food insecure: They do not know when they will get food on the table and what food it will be.

Asmaa Abumezied

Oxfam Adviser and Gazan

Like many other places in the world, Gaza is hit by high food prices. They had been rising for some time, but were given an extra push by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) food index, a basket of staple foods, reached a record high of 159.7 points in March, 63 per cent more than before the corona pandemic. Since then, the index has fallen slightly, but food prices have been so high since the 2008 financial crisis.

hurricane of hunger

According to the UN, conflicts, the corona pandemic and climate change, among other things, are driving prices. That two of the world’s largest wheat exporters are involved in a war puts things in perspective. Fearing future supplies from Russia and Ukraine, large food companies are hoarding, pushing up prices further. The UN warns that this threatens to lead to a hurricane of world hunger, especially in the most vulnerable countries.

In the Gaza Strip, which has been under Israeli blockade since 2007 and has been the subject of numerous military attacks in recent years, the economic buffers to deal with such a crisis have been exhausted. “Gaza is not Britain or Belgium,” Abumezied said. “If pasta gets 10 percent more expensive there, it will be uncomfortable for people, but they can afford it. Here, more than 60 percent of the population lives in poverty, half of whom are unemployed. Although prices are only rising by 2 percent, the consequences are much more serious. ‘

Many residents of the Gaza Strip can no longer afford bread, vegetables or meat. They resort to things like noodles, which are cheap but have little nutritional value, or they build up debt. The problem is all the more acute because the Palestinian Authority has to import most of the food and is also dependent on Israel’s discretion.

Too salty water

“We used to produce a lot of food in the Gaza Strip. In my garden I had peaches, almonds, but they have all been destroyed by the high salinity of the water, “says Abumezied. The only source of water in the Gaza Strip is groundwater, but overpumping has caused seawater to enter it, making it too salty and contaminated with chloride and nitrate. Many crops and trees that once grew in Gaza have disappeared.

Local agriculture is also hampered by limited space and high manure and animal feed prices (+ 60%), which are also driven by the war in Ukraine. In addition, Israel restricts imports and exports of goods, making it less attractive for farmers to produce more.

The question is whether external assistance will still reach us with the current food crisis, and to what extent?

Asmaa Abumezied

Oxfam Adviser and Gazan

“In 2021, Israel introduced a rule requiring the removal of the green crown from every tomato leaving Gaza, allegedly for security reasons,” Abumezied said. ‘As a result, they do not last as long and there is less demand for them. This is how Israel limits the small number of agricultural products we produce here. ‘

Many families depend on outside help. “63 percent of Gaza’s 2 million people need outside help to survive,” Abumezied said. ‘But the question is, will that aid still reach us with the current food crisis, and to what extent?’

alarm clock

NGOs have already sounded the alarm: The financial and humanitarian aid currently going to Ukraine is being diverted from other programs and other crises around the world. Organizations like the World Food Program (WFP) also struggle even with high food prices. WFP now pays 50 percent more per month for its food than in 2019, forcing it to reduce its food distribution in some places. According to the UN, about $ 166 million went to the Palestinian territories in the first half of 2022, compared to 613.5 million in the whole of 2021.


World Food Program

The UN World Food Program now pays 50 percent more per month for its food than in 2019, forcing it to reduce its food distribution in some places.

It is feared that hunger will lead to protests that could clash with Israeli violence. In recent weeks, there have been rumors that a new military offensive is imminent. It will also have an impact on food prices. The war in Ukraine is just one of the factors affecting our daily lives, “Abumezied said.” The world is aware of Gaza when there is blatant violence, with blood and escalation, but this kind of violence is just as bad. This is a slow death. ‘

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