Global Agriculture

Gaza: FAO contributes to fighting malnutrition and starvation

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06 April 2024, Jerusalem: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is delivering 150 tonnes, out of a total of 1500 tonnes, of animal fodder to 2 450 livestock-keeping households in the Gaza Strip to safeguard surviving animals and support local production of fresh nutritious food like milk, dairy, eggs and meat amidst an imminent risk of famine.

This is the first time much-needed animal fodder has entered the Strip since the escalation of hostilities, which has caused the collapse of agrifood value chains, contributing to rapid deterioration of acute food insecurity in Gaza, with famine conditions emerging in the north.

The agriculture sector was already diminished pre-war yet remained vital to the local economy. Prior to 7 October, Gaza’s food producers kept the Strip nearly self-sufficient in eggs, milk, poultry and red meat, fish, vegetables and fruits. These items are indispensable to a healthy, nutritious diet, especially for children, and are impractical to import as food aid.

Around 55 percent of meat and dairy producing livestock in Gaza have been slaughtered, consumed, or lost due to the conflict. Only 45 percent of small ruminants remain, corresponding to approximately 30 000 heads, as of March.

“The scarcity of animal fodder puts livestock holders at significant risk, causing the complete loss of their primary assets, source of nutrition and income. Every animal that dies has lasting impacts, costly to replace and virtually impossible due to import restrictions. By ensuring fodder availability, we can support the survival and reproduction of livestock, and provide essential nutritious and fresh food even during conflicts,” stated Ciro Fiorillo, Head of Office of FAO West Bank and Gaza Strip.

FAO seeks to deliver initially a total of 1 500 tonnes of fodder, which is sufficient to provide for about 50 days milk for all children under 10 years of age in Gaza, providing around 20 percent of the WHO recommended minimum daily requirement in terms of caloric intake.

“To prevent famine and extreme malnutrition, restarting local food production is crucial. This, however, requires immediate access to agricultural supplies to affected areas. Overcoming logistical hurdles, particularly obtaining entry permits, has been a major barrier to effectively delivering this essential aid,” said Abdulhakim Elwaer, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa.

Elwaer further reiterated the Director-General’s call for peace and Right to Food as a human right. “Unrest sparks despair. It is a recipe for disaster, unsettling our mission to tackle acute food insecurity and putting lives–human, animal, and crop alike–in grave danger,” he added.

Food aid is indispensable but not sufficient to meet caloric and nutritional needs in Gaza. Food production imports are mostly banned, with only a few permitted from countries other than Israel. FAO is committed to expand its assistance in collaboration with its partners and donors to deliver crucial agricultural aid to restore availability of highly nutritious food, prevent the sector’s total collapse, preserve remaining livelihoods, and curb acute hunger and malnutrition.

FAO, supported by the governments of Belgium, Italy and Norway, has worked closely with the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture and local non-governmental organizations to move this life-sustaining fodder into and around Gaza.

Video interview with FAO Director for Emergencies and Resilience, Rein Paulsen, on animal fodder distribution in Gaza is available here.

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