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Gaza crisis: Food needs are urgent

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The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) delivered emergency food aid in Gaza during a five-hour ceasefire. As the conflict now escalates between Israel and the Palestinian fighters, there is also the risk of severe hunger.

WFP's director in Palestine, Pablo Recalde, warns, "The food needs in Gaza are urgent." Around 57 percent of Gaza's population already lives in hunger. Any surge in conflict increases this level of suffering. Since this latest round of fighting over 20,000 people have been displaced and need emergency food.

Farming lands have also been destroyed by shelling. The overall damage is likely much worse as aid groups have been limited as to which areas they can access. According to the UN, at least 2,000 farmers are in urgent need of food aid.

During the ceasefire, WFP distributed food vouchers and transported wheat flour, bread and canned tuna to its Gaza warehouses. Food deliveries were made to families and also to patients in hospital. Recalde adds, "We are seeing the effectiveness of WFP’s food assistance programmes, which provides the opportunity for a rapid response and flexibility to scale-up emergency food assistance if the need arise."

WFP food was to be distributed to 85,000 people in the coming days. With Israel launching a military ground offensive to strike the Hamas fighters in Gaza, it's unclear whether all these food aid deliveries will take place. Should the fighting continue, food supplies will be at risk. Existing stocks can only hold out a matter of weeks without replenishment.

There are nearly 600,000 people in Palestine who receive regularly receive WFP food, almost half of them in Gaza. WFP, which relies on voluntary funding, is also short of US $20 million for its Palestine relief program. The emergency food needs caused by the current fighting will increase the amount of funding required, according to WFP.

Back in June, the United States delivered wheat to support WFP operations. This has proven to be an extremely timely contribution. With humanitarian emergencies ongoing in Syria and Africa, it is much harder for aid groups to receive enough donations to feed the hungry.