The occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) faced one of the worst winter storms seen in decades last month. The West Bank experienced record snow fall, which municipalities were ill-equipped to handle. While Gaza was spared much of the snow, the Strip received a devastating wintry mix of freezing rain, strong winds, and bitter cold that paralyzed an area considered a humanitarian crisis long before the storm.
The Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) released an assessment of the havoc wrought by winter storm Alexa in the Gaza strip (see below). PARC, a partner of Grassroots International, documented how the storm flooded farms, destroyed greenhouses, and killed livestock. Many farmers found their henhouses littered with frozen chicks and hens, while others lost sheep. The fishing industry fared no better as the surging sea took with it nets, tools and even boats. These damages are not only devastating for individual farmers and herders, but also to the Strip as a whole where people face chronic food and fuel shortages because of the Israeli blockade and Egypt’s systematic destruction of tunnels. These tunnels, through which food and fuel as well as construction materials have been smuggled into Gaza, were a lifeline for the Strip. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territory, the storm:
- Exacerbated already fragile living conditions and livelihoods among large segments of the Palestinian population.
- Flooded low-lying areas across the Gaza Strip, resulting in the temporary evacuation of some 10,000 people, alongside damage to around 21,000 homes.
Now Palestinian communities in both Gaza and the West Bank are engaged in the long process of rebuilding. For communities in Gaza, finding support to rehabilitate farmland, fishing equipment and return to livestock production is critical. Without such support entire communities will face severe food shortages and hunger in 2014. Grassroots International remains committed to supporting our Palestinian partners in their efforts to rebuild – yet again. With solidarity from our donors and funders, we are committed to accompanying communities in the West Bank and Gaza to meet their immediate needs as well as the larger goal of a dignified and self-determined life with access to land, water and food for all.