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U.N. to Boost Food Aid to Palestinians

November 19, 2002|From Reuters

GENEVA — The head of a U.N. agency aiding Palestinians said Monday that his organization is preparing a massive food program to combat growing malnutrition among residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East estimates that in 2003, it will need to deliver daily food parcels to 222,000 families, or about 1.3 million people, more than one-third of the Palestinian population.

Before the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza began in September 2000, the U.N. agency was feeding about 11,000 families a day.

"Recent reports show that about 22% of Palestinian children are suffering from acute or chronic malnutrition," agency Commissioner-General Peter Hansen told reporters in Switzerland. "The economy is close to collapse. The level of malnutrition compares with Zimbabwe or Congo."

The agency will ask donors for $200 million in 2003 as part of a U.N. global appeal on behalf of all its agencies. The figure compares with $170 million for 2002, when donors met only 60% of the agency's appeal.

The United Nations said in September that nearly half of Palestinians were living on less than its poverty threshold of $2 a day.

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