Nisreen Foad Qasem is a forty-year-old Palestine refugee mother of nine, living in Gaza City. Despite the hard living conditions, resilience and determination emanate from her and every corner of her clean and well-organized home. “My children are all that I live for; I am dedicating my life to them. I want them to have a decent life and hope for a bright and better future,” Nisreen started her speech.
“When my husband passed away three years ago, life got harder and I had no one to turn to. I had no source of income or support except for food assistance from UNRWA. This helps me put food on the table for my nine children, even during times when there is fighting,” she added.
Nisreen’s family is one of 21,000 female-headed-households in Gaza who are categorized as being abject poor. This means that they live on less than US$ 1.74 per person per day and receive regular UNRWA food assistance as part of the Agency’s Social Safety Net (SSN) programme. In total, some 665,000 Palestine refugees in Gaza are classified as abject poor and benefit from UNRWA food aid every three months. Additionally, some 390,000 refugees have been assessed to live between the abject poverty line and the absolute poverty line of US$ 3.87 per person per day and are supported with a smaller food basket than the abject poor refugee households. In both cases, the food baskets contain quantities of wheat flour, rice, sunflower oil, sugar, dried milk, lentils and chickpeas. Families categorized as abject poor receive additional rations of canned sardines.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 68 per cent of households in the Gaza Strip, or about 1.3 million people, are severely or moderately food insecure.
“Every three months, we wait impatiently to go to the UNRWA Beach Distribution Centre to receive the food coupon. We are a big family and I can’t imagine our life without it. It isn’t only about food; it is about support to live with dignity,” she added. According to Nisreen, the food basket contains food she needs to provide daily meals for her family.
In the first quarter of 2019, UNRWA distributed in-kind food assistance to 1,056,179 Palestine refugees in Gaza, or 211,660 families, or about 75 per cent of all Palestine refugees in Gaza,