High food insecurity levels among Bedouins, a silent emergency in the West Bank

16 April 2010


A food security and nutrition survey jointly carried out by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), has found unusually high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition among herder and Bedouin communities living in the Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank.

As territorial fragmentation continues in the West Bank, livestock-dependent communities living in Area C have been affected by years of diminishing water resources, combined with a deterioration in the quality or arable lands. They are facing increasing movement restrictions and their access to range land and natural water resources is severely limited.

To prevent these herding communities from falling into deeper cycles of indebtedness and increased risk of livelihood erosion, WFP and UNRWA launched a joint emergency programme in August 2009. The aim of the programme is to protect and assist 5,200 Bedouin and Palestinian herder families to maintain their livelihood and way of life in the face of political and environmental challenges.

Using the Socio-Economic and Food Security Survey methodology, the joint food security and nutrition survey was conducted to establish a baseline for measuring the impact of the joint UNRWA/WFP project and UNICEF interventions targeting this population group.

The study found that 79% of the surveyed Bedouin and local Palestinian herders in Area C, are food insecure as compared to the 25% of households in the West Bank. The level of food insecurity for these herding communities is even higher than in the Gaza Strip (61%).

Nutrition conditions among children under five years of age are especially worrisome, with 5.9% characterized as "wasted" or having low weight for their height; 15.3% as "underweight" or having low weight for their age; and 28.5% as "stunted" or being short for their age. The Area C findings are far worse than West Bank or oPt-wide averages. Inadequate child caring practices and high disease incidence also predispose the population to increased risk of malnutrition.

The survey was carried out in October 2009, as part of a broader inter-agency programme of food security and nutrition monitoring, providing protection and assistance to herding communities in Area C, an area which makes up roughly 60 percent of the West Bank. The final report can be downloaded on http://www.wfppal.org, http://www.unrwa.org or www.unicef.org/opt.

Download the report (PDF)


For more information:

Ancel Kats, WFP, Tel. +972-2-5401340/1/2 (ancel.kats@wfp.org)
Marixie Mercado, UNICEF, Tel. +972-2-584-0400 (mmercado@unicef.org)

Background Information

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 100 million.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
UNRWA Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 240 2659
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications & Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)2 589 0724

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