UN begins food distribution programme in Gaza

UN begins food distribution programme in Gaza

UN begins food distribution programme in Gaza

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners Tuesday launched a special food distribution programme in Gaza for 730,000 people who are not receiving food under other programmes, in an effort to reach all conflict-affected people there.

Following the announcement of a 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza, which started Sunday night, WFP and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Tuesday started distributing one-time food parcels of 10 kg rice and 30 kg of wheat flour to 143,000 families, totalling 730,000 people, the WFP said in a press release.

The security situation permitting, the distribution should be completed in two weeks. Prior to this distribution, the combined food assistance programmes of the two agencies in Gaza was already reaching 1.1 million people.

"We want to provide relief for all families affected by the conflict in Gaza, including those host families who have opened their homes in solidarity with friends and relatives, sharing their food and resources during these very difficult times," said Pablo Recalde, WFP country director in Palestine.

The WFP, working with the UN humanitarian coordinator and partners, has led the activation of the logistics cluster, a system by which the community coordinates with logistical support and humanitarian assistance.

Since its activation, 360 pallets of relief items have been coordinated and delivered to Gaza, including bread, rice, water and hygiene kits.

The WFP and the UNRWA launched large-scale bread distribution, buying bread in Gaza as well as in Jerusalem and the West Bank and transporting it to Gaza.

This has relieved the pressure on Gaza bakeries, which last week saw a three-fold increase in customers -- and four-hour waiting time -- following electricity cuts that left people unable to bake bread at home, said the statement.

In addition to providing emergency food assistance during the current 72-hour ceasefire, the WFP has re-started regular food distribution in Gaza, planning to reach the 285,000 people registered with the WFP's original assistance programme prior to the conflict.

The WFP says it needs $48 million immediately to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to people affected by the conflict in Gaza. In addition, the WFP needs $20 million to continue its regular programmes in Gaza and the West Bank until the end of the year.