Low wheat reserve concerns Gaza committee 23Feb11 February 24, 2011

Ma’an News Agency -  23 February 2011

The goods coordination committee in Gaza said on Tuesday it was holding UNRWA responsible for a worrying shortage of wheat in the coastal enclave.

The committee also said the UN agency for Palestinian refugees had taken the role of “wheat merchant” in the Strip, and was leaving traders without jobs.

Spokesman for the UN agency in Gaza Adnan Abu Hasna said UNRWA was doing all it could to get sufficient amounts of wheat into the Strip, explaining that the bulk goods crossing through which the wheat is transported is opened only twice a week.

Since June, he added, the running time at the crossing has been divided between the import of wheat and construction aggregates, urgently needed for repair and reconstruction projects.

Israel has promised to increase crossing operations, but has yet to follow through on the matter.

The next wheat import is expected to be on Wednesday, Abu Hasna said, at which point bags of flour will be distributed among the more than 800,000 registered refugees in the coastal enclave.

Increasing the availability of wheat in Gaza will depend on pressure from the Palestinian Authority coordination committee, and demands directed at Israeli officials and border authorities that the bulk goods terminal be opened five days a week as per the 2005 crossing agreement, he added.

“UNRWA has been putting a great deal of pressure on Israel as well, we see that there are shortages of a number of goods and are doing our utmost,” the official said.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs noted in its last report that wheat reserves were down to one-third of normal levels, with enough wheat to last only ten days.

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