The Government of Turkey, through the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency of the Prime Ministry of the Republic of Turkey (AFAD), will provide for almost 15 per cent of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) annual requirement of over 70,000 tons of flour in the Gaza Strip, enabling UNRWA to continue its in-kind food assistance to over 800,000 people – half of the population of the coastal enclave.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi thanked Turkey for its support. He said: "This is an important contribution because it comes at a time of increasing difficulties in Gaza. With exports at 2 per cent of the pre-blockade level, access to fishing and farming areas severely limited and the closure of many tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, through which basic commodities were entering, the Turkish in-kind donation of 10,000 tons of flour, worth approximately US$ 5.2 million, comes at a critical moment for Palestine refugees in Gaza."
Ambassador Şakir Özkan Torunlar, Consul-General of Turkey in Jerusalem, said that the support of the Turkish government and the people for UNRWA had increased more than twelvefold since 2009. “Turkey will continue to closely follow the full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1860 (2009), which foresees the lifting of the illegitimate blockade imposed upon the people living in Gaza, and will continue to contribute to the efforts of UN agencies working in the field to ease the living conditions of Gazans, besides her own direct assistance to the Palestinians in the Strip,” Ambassador Torunlar said.
Largely due to high unemployment, low wages and rising food prices, food insecurity in Gaza was already increasing before the Egyptian crisis. Since the June 2013 closure of smuggling tunnels, the costs of rice (26 per cent), sugar (14 per cent) and sunflower oil (13 per cent) have increased the most. Even Gazans with an income are struggling to feed their families, and more and more people are losing their jobs, both in the private construction sector, due to the closure of smuggling tunnels, as well as in UNRWA construction projects. With the situation deteriorating, UNRWA is assessing the poverty status of refugee families in the Gaza Strip on a constant basis and expects beneficiary numbers to grow
Since the freeze of all shipments of building materials to the Gaza Strip since 13 October, coordinated construction material has run out for 19 of 20 active UNRWA construction projects that were expected to generate up to 7,600 jobs in 2013. The loss of job opportunities in UNRWA construction projects will contribute to the increasing humanitarian needs of the Palestine refugee population – at a time when there is little hope that support to critical emergency operations can be sustained in the future. Due to funding constraints, UNRWA was forced to suspend cash subsidies in Gaza in April, and also had to put on hold its school feeding programme, which reached almost 233,000 students studying in UNRWA schools.
In addition to in-kind contributions of food, Turkey is a significant financial supporter of UNRWA. Since 2009, the Government of Turkey has more than doubled its contribution to the Agency, reaching an annual sum of US$ 1.25 million in the last two years. Turkey also chairs the Working Group on the Financing of UNRWA in New York and is a founding member of the Advisory Commission, comprising the major governmental UNRWA supporters.