The war in Ukraine may cause food shortages for Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, US Deputy Ambassador Richard M. Mills told the UN Security Council, weeks after British NGO Oxfam warned of a wheat shortage there.
“Due to President Putin’s unprovoked aggression against Ukraine, food insecurity could worsen even further in the coming weeks, both in Gaza and the West Bank as prices of food, fuel and other commodities rise,” Mills told the UNSC during its monthly meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He spoke days after the UNRWA Commissioner-General, Philippe Lazzarini, spoke of the financial straits his organization faces in its efforts to deliver services to 5.6 million Palestinian refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.
Tor Wennesland, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, also warned the session of the looming food shortage.
“Following the outbreak of conflict in Ukraine, rising prices and market disruptions – which are taking place across the Middle East – threaten food security levels of vulnerable [Palestinian] families,” he said.
UNRWA’s quarterly distribution costs in Gaza have increased by 42% since the end of 2021, where the UN provides nearly 60% of the food supply, Wennesland detailed.
“Without additional funding, the World Food Program and UNRWA will not be able to meet the food needs of the Palestinian population this year, which can have a destabilizing impact across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, particularly in the Gaza Strip,” he said. “I echo the secretary-general’s appeal for urgent support to UNRWA, which continues to face a critical financial situation.”
Earlier this month, Oxfam warned of a pending wheat shortage, noting that according to the World Food Program, the price of wheat flour in the Palestinian territories had increased by 23.6%, corn oil by 26.3%, lentils by 17.6% and table salt by 30%.
Oxfam explained that this was particularly problematic, because the PA has no infrastructure to deal with food shortages and relies on Israel and the Palestinian private sector. Israel, according to Oxfam, imports half of its grains and cereals from Ukraine.
Russia took exception at the UNSC to accusations that it was responsible for the rising food prices.
“To our regret, today we again heard some delegations try to shift responsibilities and accuse Russia of a looming food crisis, i.e. in the Middle East,” said Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia. “We perceive it as an attempt to divert attention from miscalculations of Western states who introduced sanctions and unilateral coercive measures that constitute the root cause of current trends. If they wish it, our Western colleagues can easily solve this problem. There is no need to spout empty rhetoric and mislead Security Council members.”