“I’ve never seen hunger like this is Gaza.” This is what MECA Director of Gaza Projects. Dr. Mona El-Farra said to a group of staff and supporters more than two years ago. Sadly, food insecurity has become a permanent feature of the Israeli occupation in Gaza. Military attacks, the siege now in its fifteenth year, destruction of infrastructure, import and export restrictions (including on agricultural products), as well as intermittent pandemic lockdowns have pushed many families into deep poverty and created widespread hunger and malnutrition among children.
Conditions in Lebanon are just as dire, especially for refugees. Even low-paid, temporary work is hard to find, and inflation is as high as 100% or more. There are nearly a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon and most live below the poverty line, with an estimated ninety percent experiencing food insecurity. Many people who fled war in Syria—Syrians and Palestinians alike—have joined the Palestinian refugees who had already been living in Lebanon for decades. They now live together in the overcrowded, dilapidated refugee camps built to “temporarily” house the families who fled the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948. Both displaced peoples live in extremely precarious financial and legal circumstances.
Last Spring, as families in Gaza and Lebanon faced another Ramadan in deep and widespread poverty, our friends at PaliRoots, US Palestinian Community Network, Palestinian American Community Center and Free Democratic Movement in Arizona, and Palestinian Public Health took the initiative to raise funds so that MECA could provide food to as many families as possible, as quickly as possible. As a result of these efforts and donations from hundreds of other people, MECA has distributed more than 2,000 food parcels so far in 2022.
Wafaa El-Derawi is one of four full-time MECA staff people in Gaza. She is a trained nutritionist and the coordinator of food distribution and other food projects. Wafaa is working with several of MECA’s partner organizations and many volunteers to deliver food parcels made up of rice, beans, lentils, cheese, fresh local produce, and traditional foods from local farmers and women’s food collectives, whose livelihoods are under constant threat.
I’d like to extend the people’s thanks to the Palestinian American community. Now people will have food on their tables and this support promotes the resilience of the people in Gaza. And I want to extend thanks from the women’s cooperatives and the farmers for the solidarity offered to them.
— Tareq, food distribution volunteer