Select Committee on International Development Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Action Against Hunger


  Based on our field experience and knowledge of the area, Action Against Hunger calls for the immediate attention of the international community on the situation in the Tubas district.

  Out of the explicit violence present in the area, implicit violence in terms of movement restrictions and violation of essential rights such as food security and access to health and water requires the intervention of the international community.

  A large number of the Tubas population (43,000 in total) now suffers from food insecurity and is at risk of a serious deterioration in the nutritional status.

  This report attempts to describe the vulnerability of the Palestinian people in the Tubas district from figures collected in the study carried out by Action Against Hunger in March-July 2003. AAH has been working in the area on food security, water and sanitation programmes since 2002.


  Since the beginning of the Second Intifadah (September 2002) the political attention and the focus of the international mass media have been on those areas with high rates of violence and military actions.

  The Tubas district (Northeast West Bank) can be "classified" as one of those areas that is not in explicit conflict but is directly affected by the impact of the closure of borders and restrictions on the freedom of movement. The Tubas district is situated between two "hot spots" of conflict: Nablus and Jenin, and is becoming a strategic area for the Israeli army.

  Furthermore, the provisional path of the Wall "delimiting" Israel (against the will of the international community) will exclude the Tubas district from most of the Jordan Valley, which covers 70% of the fertile lands in the area, where agriculture is the main economic sector and the main source of income and employment for the population.


  Palestinian structural vulnerability (due to their economic dependency on Israel, the fragility of their Administration and their military inferiority in the conflict) is increasing since September 2002 for two main reasons:

Movement restrictions:

  For reasons of security and protection of the Israeli civil population the Israeli Defence Forces hold positions with a number of preventive measures that drastically restrict the movement of populations such as:

    —  Permanent checkpoints: 120 permanent checkpoints along the Gaza strip

    —  Non-permanent checkpoint controls

    —  Roadblocks

    —  Curfews in major towns: around 500,000 Palestinians are living under military curfew for around 70% of the time. At the peak of recent military actions, nearly 900,000 were under curfew 90% of the time.

Limited effectiveness from the Palestinian Authority to meet population needs:

  The Palestinian Authority has been denounced for low levels of transparency and little will be done to change the current situation. Humanitarian organisations like Action Against Hunger have faced situations of "clientelism" or distortion in the allocation of resources. Exerting pressure during the process of electing beneficiaries is common practice among Palestinian authorities. The huge difference between the Palestinian Authority's administration costs and its results is currently far from being solved in the area. Humanitarian organisations in the Tubas district have to struggle not only with restricted movements because of Israeli preventive measures but also with the obstacles set up by the Palestinian Authority.

Economic breakdown

  The increasing violence from both sides and the existing economic dependency on Israel are both causes and consequences of food insecurity among the civil population. Before September 2000 the Gaza Strip and the West Bank might have been regarded as "mid-developing economies". The recent collapse has run into a rise in unemployment that is beyond control: 50% in the West Bank and Gaza. Most production activities have ceased (accounting for 75% of the goods and services produced in the Palestinian territories).

  Current unemployment rates and the rupture of external trade are the economic factors with the greatest impact on vulnerability.

    Unemployment rates:

    —  The active population in Tubas is around 19,000 people—of these, around 15,000 live in areas A and B (as per defined by the Oslo agreement) and are the most affected by the blockade.

    —  40% of the population is unemployed, compared with 10% before the beginning of the blockade. An important part of the newly unemployed workers consists of those previously working in Israel (23% of the active population at that time—only 5% of these remain employed there).

    —  20-25% of the population keeps on working but in much more precarious conditions.

    Interruption of local trade:

  Agricultural trade has suffered the most in terms of commercial and marketing side-effects of the blockade, in terms of:

    —  prices: increases in agriculture prices; and

    —  milk production: delivery of milk to its destinations is not possible due to lack of access, livestock farmers therefore cannot send their product.

  Currently most of production finds its way only in the local market (see Annex A).


  The direct economic impact (interruption of local trade and unemployment—see table below) of the conflict is already having consequences on food security. Moreover the construction of the wall is directly undermining access to water and to fertile lands for Palestinians.

  Food security, health and water are the main areas affected by the increase in vulnerability.

Large parts of the Tubas population face severe food insecurity and risk of falling into serious nutritional degradation

Impact on agriculture

  Agriculture is a significant activity in the Tubas region. Previously, very advanced agricultural practices had been in place, with an intensive use of high-technology inputs. After the beginning of the Intifadah and the subsequent blockade, the effects on agricultural production have been the following:

    —  Important economic impact of border closure on the production of cash crops: increase in prices of production inputs (even 40 to 100%—more difficult access, increase in transportation costs, even 200%), decrease in market prices of agricultural products (50 to 500%, as a result of the excess supply in local markets).

    —  Difficulties in access to cultivation fields, due to confiscations (the village of Al Aqaba stands out, 80% of the land has been confiscated), and the existence of check-points.

    —  Problems for nomadic livestock production—40% loss in grazing land, and lack of access to water points.

    —  The whole agricultural potential of Jordan Valley will be lost after the building of the Wall.

  Different factors related to decreasing employment opportunities, reduction of fertile lands and changes in the basic basket are the main threats to food security today.

Decreased access to food means an access to only 52% of the food basket per family

  In terms of food security, the impact of the blockade has had an important effect on the families' economic access to food. This has led to a change in the composition of the basic household basket. Before the Intifadah, the basic basket was based on a Mediterranean diet, well balanced with vegetables, wheat, milk, olive oil, red meat, eggs, coffee and sugar. As a result of this, families have had to resort to a change in food habits such as:

    —  60% decrease in meat consumption per capita.

    —  Substitution of flour for bread.

    —  Suppression of fruit consumption.

    —  Near suppression of humus consumption.

    —  50% decrease in processed products such as sugar, tea and coffee.

  The families have been coping with the aforementioned situation by selling their main assets such as household assets, tools and livestock. This leads to a loss of capital that will undermine their capacity to recover their basic standards of life and will demand additional assistance activities.

Severe degradation in access to basic health services and increase in diseases linked with malnutrition

    —  Lack of public health services: there are no appropriate health services in Tubas. There is no hospital, and only two private clinics without the possibility to carry out surgical procedures.

    —  Impossibility of access to hospitals: the conditions of the blockade have caused a sharp increase in the health vulnerability because the civil population do not have access to hospitals.

    —  Illness due to malnutrition: the change in the diet has increased the prevalence of certain pathologies, like anaemia and infectious diseases.

To maintain access to water means less access to other essential needs

    —  Increase in the price of water: water is already one of the most important problems in the district. The population must buy water at £0.9-1.8 per cubic metres, which has increased since the beginning of the Intifadah.

    —  Lack of water networks: only seven out of 23 communities have a water network, but are not working at its full capacity due to lack of maintenance. The majority of communities depend upon commercial services of water trucking to fill private small tanks, wells, rainwater harvesting or sources.


  We highlight that the current crisis in the Tubas district is an access problem, given the impossibility to access markets, fertile land, water, freedom of movement, employment, or even to arrive at a hospital. It is a crisis due to the impossibility of movement, the same impossibility that prevents the access of humanitarian aid. This situation seems to continue in the short term, and the construction of the wall may extend its effects to the medium and long term.

AAH advocates for:

  1.  Pressure on the Israeli authorities to respect the Geneva Convention principles (especially freedom of movement and access to markets, health and water; coverage of basic food security, water and health rights of Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories).

  2.  Increased accountability in the Palestinian Authority regarding the distribution of humanitarian aid and financial resources by setting up mechanisms guaranteeing the correct targeting and transparent use of funds.

  3.  Promotion of intercommunity initiatives in order to re-establish confidence and synergies between both civil populations by peace-building initiatives such as cultural exchanges or joint activities in order to build up a reciprocal knowledge of each other aimed at mutual tolerance.

  4.  Sufficient resource allocation to support the basic needs of the Palestinian population in order to guarantee a minimum standard of living without depending on external assistance in the medium and short term and decreasing the economic dependence on Israel.

Annex A

Distribution of products in local market 1999-2003
Market1999 2003
Israel30%  0%
West Bank10%  2%
Self-consumption10%   8%

Annex B

Vulnerable Groups of Population before and after the Second Intifadah

  The new rate of unemployment has seen the inclusion of two new groups of vulnerability: labourers and workers previously working in Israel. At the same time small farmers have suffered directly from the closure of borders. Before the Intifadah, the three groups had reached a certain level of improvement. Female-led households continue to be very vulnerable (they were already highly dependent on external assistance before 2002). The following tables show some figures describing the situation of the four groups in comparison to their situation before the Intifadah (left column):
Previous workers in Israel2,500 individuals
—  Workers used to have a rather high living level (340-675 £/month of incomes, 270-475 £/month of expenditures)

—  95% are unemployed currently

—  Change in habits: expenditure reduced to 40-80
£/month (84% decrease)

—  These last years have survived thanks to the loss of capital of assets. This capacity to cope is currently almost exhausted

—  Many people have to look for alternative economic activities as labourers or part-time farmers

—  Increase in the number of family members searching for a job (women, students, children, etc)

Labourers8,000 individuals
—  Low-level education

—  On average, 10 members per family

—  Previous incomes of 200 £/month, expenditures around £95 per month

—  30% decrease in income (£140 per month), 35% decrease in expenditure (£55-70 per month)

—  Significantly reduced strategies currently available to cope with the situation, as their saving capacity in the past was limited

—  Fewer job opportunities and worse pay as a consequence of the excess supply of available workforce

—  They rely on the loss of capital, changes in food consumption and expenditure patterns, the incorporation of women into the labour market, and marriages of daughters

Small farmers1,000 families
—  Low-level education

—  On average, more than 10 members per family

—  They usually are associated with big farmers

—  Certain but limited self-production capacity

—  Limited capitalisation and saving capacity

—  Before the Intifadah, yearly incomes of £4,800-7,200

—  Very affected by the border closure and trade opportunities have been reduced

—  Very affected in economic terms—80% decrease in income and 50% decrease in expenditure

—  They still have certain economic capacity in terms of cash and food sources

—  Current yearly income of £1,200-2,400

—  Search of new sources of employment in summer, when there are no argicultural work

—  Changes in food consumption patterns

Female-led households10% of total households
—  Very low-level education, high rate of illiteracy

—  Socioeconomic group with higher vulnerability

—  Those who are able to work, receive salaries 50% less than men

—  Only 16% work

—  50% make their living out from solidarity networks

September 2003

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