Update: Fresh Food for Families in Rafah

Josie Shields-Stromsness, Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA)

Update for Madison Rafah Sister City Project

BACKGROUND
The economic situation in the Gaza Strip is deteriorating dramatically as a result of the continuation of the Israeli occupation and the Israeli blockade. The precautions taken to limit the spread of coronavirus including imposing of lockdowns and curfews have worsened the dire situation. As a result, more than 70% of the population are reported below the poverty line and food insecurity and malnutrition pose serious risks to the health of hundreds of thousands of people, particularly children.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS
With donations from MRSCP, MECA and our local partner in Gaza, the Never Stop Dreaming Association, were able to provide nutritious food parcels to families in need in Rafah while also supporting local farmers and businesses.

We received additional funding from several individuals and organizations in the United States for this project and in total were able to provide 1413 families in Rafah, Khan Younis and the middle region of the Gaza Strip with food parcels. Families were nominated by community organizations in each location and then checked against official lists to ensure we are reaching people most in need. MRSCPs donations of $4655 provide food parcels to 116 families in Rafah governate in the southern Gaza Strip, the transportation, warehouse rental, and meals for volunteers were covered by other funding sources.

The contents of the food parcels were purchased from 4 farms employing 24 individuals and 3 small grocery stores. This project therefore provided critical income to 27 families in Gaza.

Each food parcel contained fresh vegetables, chickens, and other household staples designed to provide each family with the necessary items to make healthy, balanced meals for two weeks. MECA staff member Wafaa El-Derawi is a trained nutritionist and oversaw the contents of the parcels.

CHALLENGES
We faced some challenges with the COVID-19 restrictions in Gaza. We overcame this by having several distribution points, providing all staff and volunteers with masks and gloves, and by organizing pick up times well so there was not overcrowding at the warehouses.

Some families from remote areas could not reach the distribution points. With help from the local community organizations in each location, we were able to arrange transportation for these families.

The number of nominated cases was more than the food parcels. This was overcome through rapid research to identify the most difficult cases and families living in severe poverty to prioritize their coverage.

SUCCESSES
Beneficiaries had positive evaluation of the contents of the food parcels. We received many comments appreciating the fresh vegetables and chicken which are unusual in food parcels.

One family in Rafah that received the food parcel was particularly appreciated. She lives with her family – her sick husband and her 11 children – in a marginalized area. Their house doesn’t have a roof, instead corrugated iron board covers part of it, leaving them to drown in rains every winter. The family has no source of livelihood, and they live on food aid. They were very happy with the food and chicken package. She thanked and prayed for all those in charge of the project.


The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is joining with MECA, ZamZam Water, PaliRoots, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees to provide food parcels to families in Rafah. As always, MECA strives to support the local economy while providing much needed aid for families. With these food parcels many Palestinian farmers and cooperatives benefit, and the end result is a healthy and local package of eggs, vegetables, beans, lentils, rice, cheese, za’atar and more.

The economic situation in the Gaza Strip is deteriorating dramatically as a result of the continuation of the Israeli occupation and the Israeli blockade. The precautions taken to limit the spread of coronavirus including imposing of lockdowns and curfews have worsened the dire situation. As a result, more than 70% of the population are reported below the poverty line.

The project aims to provide support for some of the poorest families in the Gaza strip through provision of fresh food items as well as protect the livelihoods of small farmers and women by helping generate income to support their families.

Each family will receive a food parcel with essentials like rice, beans, and lentils as well as fresh local produce and poultry. An estimated 20 small farmers and cooperative members will benefit from providing the produce and locally made packaged goods such as jam and maftool.

The project will be overseen by an agricultural engineer and a nutritionist to ensure the parcels are well balanced and good quality. MECA staff and local partners will work to identify families in Rafah area to receive the food parcels.

Selection criteria include

  • The beneficiary should not be an employee
  • The beneficiary should be the breadwinner of a family of not less than 4 members
  • Priority is given to poor families that have disabled individuals or those with chronic diseases
  • Priority is given to female-headed households

Sample contents of the food parcel, subject to change based on the season and feedback from the recipients during the current distribution to 1400 families:

    2 cans of tomato paste (each one 400 g)
    5 cans of fava beans (each one 500g)
    3 liters of cooking oil
    1 jar of jam
    0.5 kg yellow processed cheese
    1 bottle of tahini (400 g)
    1 kg of lentils
    3 kg rice
    1 kg white beans
    1 chicken
    2 kg maftool
    2 kg pressed dates
    3 kg tomatoes
    3 kg onions
    3 kg potatoes
    1 kg cucumber
    0.5 kg garlic
    2 kg eggplant

The estimated cost of each food parcel is $40 and the food parcels will last each family 2-3 weeks depending on family size. The contents are meant to complement what UNRWA provides to refugees in Gaza in order to provide these families with a more balanced diet though recipients of these parcels will not be exclusively refugees.