Impoverished Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip are looking to aid agencies to deliver food assistance during this Eid Al-Adha holiday season.
International NGOs, many Islamic, have been purchasing sheep and cows in preparation for meat distribution to assist the most vulnerable families across Gaza, with several providing gifts and warm clothing as the winter season starts.
Islamic NGOs are launching ‘Qurbani’ appeals worldwide. Qurbani refers to the animals (camels, cattle, goats or sheep) sacrificed by Muslim adults as an obligatory act of worship, and those that that have the means should give a charitable Qurbani, according to most Muslims.
Aid workers from a Turkish Islamic NGO operating in Gaza, Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), have purchased 170 cows from the local markets for their Qurbani project, which will distribute two kilograms of fresh meat to each of 17,000 needy families. IHH’s Eid assistance has a budget of US$400,000 and includes a clothing distribution to 2,000 orphaned children. The organization’s larger orphan sponsorship programme in Gaza assists 10,000 children who have lost at least one parent.
IHH would like to implement similar projects in the West Bank, but are unable to obtain the necessary permits from Israeli authorities, the NGO’s officials in Gaza say.
Israel views IHH as providing support to Hamas, which it regards as a “terrorist” organization.
Israel tightened its blockade of Gaza in June 2007 after Hamas seized power in the Strip. IHH has supported several international campaigns against the blockade, charging that it violates human rights and deepens poverty.
“In every place we operate, coordination with the local authority is important. It’s not a matter of Hamas or of any other authority, what matters for us is being able to help those in poverty,” an IHH official in Gaza told IRIN.
Sixty-six percent of households in Gaza are either vulnerable to food insecurity or experiencing it, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). Commercial food enters Gaza through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, or via underground tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border, but the average family’s lack of purchasing power limits what they can buy. Unemployment in Gaza is around 38 percent.
Taghreed, 36, (who declined to give her family name) has registered for the distribution of beef by the UK-based NGO, Muslim Hands International, which aims to reach 2,500 families this Eid.
She and her five children live in the Sheikh Radwan area of Gaza City, and although she works as a cleaner in a government building, her salary cannot stretch to afford meat. “I am struggling to feed my family,” Taghreed told IRIN, “I am concerned about my children’s health.”
Data collected in 2010 from 20 health centres run by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) as part of its growth monitoring system for children in Gaza, indicated that 5 percent of children from 0 to 3 years old showed signs of growth retardation – stunting, wasting and being underweight – said Dr Mohamed Maqadma, chief of UNRWA’s health programme.
This figure had doubled since 2005, and he noted that many children in Gaza “do not have access to foods that meet growth needs.”
Escalation of Violence
The recent escalation of violence between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in Gaza has claimed the lives of one Israeli civilian and 12 members of Islamic Jihad’s armed wing.
Although Israel and Hamas are implementing a ceasefire mediated by Egypt, clashes between the Israeli army and Palestinian militants have taken place in Beit Lahiya and border areas, underscoring the fragility of the truce.
“If the violence is extended and the borders are closed for a few weeks, cutting off UNRWA’s supply chain, this could have a great humanitarian impact,” the acting director of UNRWA operations in Gaza, Christer Nordahl, told IRIN.
“There is only one crossing point – Kerem Shalom, [along the Gaza-Israel border] – where UNRWA can bring in humanitarian supplies, such as food commodities, medical supplies and fuel,” he said.
UNRWA usually has enough fuel in stock to cover their needs for two to four weeks.