USAid-Report about Palestinians
Comprehensive Nutritional Assessment of the Palestinian Population. On August 5, USAID released the findings of a comprehensive nutritional assessment of the Palestinian population living in the West Bank and Gaza. The assessment was carried out by Care International, Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, and Al Quds University School of Public Health, and the Global Management Consulting Group. Read the report ... (PDF format -- 282 kb) : http://www.usaid.gov/wbg/nutritional_report.pdf
USAID reports hunger crisis in territories
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Agency for International Development yesterday released a report on hunger in the territories, saying that a humanitarian emergency grips the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The report cites an increase in malnutrition in the territories; increasing numbers of families, it says, are unable to obtain basic foodstuffs, particularly foods rich in proteins.
Prepared for USAID by several universities and research groups over an eight-week period, the report examined the Palestinian population's access to food in the territories.
The researchers found that 9.3 percent of Palestinian children in the territories suffer from a temporary form of malnutrition while 13.2 percent of children are chronically under-nourished. The situation on the Gaza Strip is manifestly worse than that of the West Bank: While 3.5 percent of children on the West Bank suffer from chronic malnutrition, the figure for Gaza is 17.5 percent.
The study concludes that these malnutrition statistics warrant classification (according to standards used by health officials) as a "humanitarian emergency," particularly in the Gaza Strip.
In Jerusalem yesterday, Israel tried yesterday to soften the diplomatic-public relations damage caused by the report's publication. At a press conference held a few hours before the official release of the study, Israeli officials said that the Palestinian population does not face starvation, and that responsibility for malnutrition problems in the territories rests with Palestinian Authority institutions, and the population itself.
The officials were careful not to reject its findings outright. However, they questioned the research methodology used by the American organization. Dr. Yaakov Eldar, adviser to the IDF coordinator of activities in the territories on health matters, and Dr. Yitzhak Sever, who addresses international relations and Palestinian affairs for the Health Ministry, noted that the investigators who actually carried out the survey were Palestinians, even though the research was funded by an American organization.
The report also finds that children who live in rural areas in the territories face much more severe hunger problems than those who live in urban settings.
The study also found that 19.7 percent of children in the territories suffer from anemia, which is classified as a "moderate" level health problem. Anemia is generally a function of poor diet. A relatively high level (10.8 percent) of anemia was also found among women ages 15-49.
USAID researchers who investigated the availability of foodstuffs in stores serving the Palestinian population in the territories found a serious shortage of foods that contain protein. Researchers found that dairy products, particularly milk powder and milk products for infants, are lacking in more than half of the food shops in the territories, with a particularly severe shortage in the Gaza Strip. The report concludes that the major reason for food shortages in the territories is roadblocks put up by Israelis, along with closures and curfews in the territories.
The report's main conclusion is that a food emergency prevails in the territories, but that this situation is reversible if there is immediate humanitarian relief.
In Gaza City yesterday, Palestinian Authority Health Minister Dr. Riyad Al Zanoun declared that an emergency policy is in effect in clinics that care for women and children. He explained that special orders have been relayed to health institutions to clarify procedures for youngsters and adults who suffer from malnutrition and anemia. These clinics will counsel patients about dietary habits.
The USAID report stirred mixed feelings yesterday in the territories. On the one hand, Palestinians noted that the fact that a U.S. governmental agency stands behind the findings guarantees increased international attention to the health and hunger situation in the territories. On the other hand, Palestinian health officials are exasperated that warnings delivered over the past year did not generate an adequate response.
Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, from Medical Relief Committees, a non-government Palestinian health organization, said yesterday that his group demanded a year ago that the territories be declared a health disaster area. Referring to health, water and food problems in Nablus, Barghouti said: "This is an unprecedented humanitarian disaster ... resulting from a decision of the Israeli occupation authorities.
By Nathan Guttman and Yair Ettinger