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U.N. Assesses Palestinian's Need for Food - 2000-11-03

The Palestinian Authorities' Ministry of Social Affairs is asking the United Nations for immediate food assistance for as many as 200,000 families. The new emergency food assistance will be provided by the U.N.'s World Food Program, or WFP and UNRWA, the U.N. Agency that cares for Palestinian refugees. Both agencies are currently assessing the food needs of the Palestinians.

WFP's Christiane Berthiaume says the agency's emergency operation will be assisting 300,000 non-refugees for an initial period of three months. "Most of them are people who used to go and work daily in Israel," said Berthiaume. "They have lost their jobs because they can not move anymore. Even within Gaza people can not move freely. So, many households do depend on employment in Israel. They have lost their job because of that since late September."

To start the emergency operation, Ms. Berthiaume says WFP is freeing $200,000 to provide an initial 650 tons of food to 13,000 families who are among the most vulnerable.

Ms. Berthiaume says the new assistance is in addition to an ongoing operation of food distribution for more than 100,000 Palestinians who she says face special hardships. "Those are people who we were feeding before the events and we are still doing that," said Berthiaume. "Those are widows, women head of families as well as handicapped, old people and orphans in institutions."

Ms. Berthiaume says food distributions in the Gaza Strip for 60,000 of these special hardship cases are being completed. However, because of security concerns, she says WFP so far has not been able to get access to two areas in the West Bank to complete food distribution for another 40,000 people. She says this operation is badly under funded but she hopes that the international community will be more generous when the U.N. appeals for money sometime next week for its new emergency operation.