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Today in the Mission Yearbook

For the past decade, Presbyterian Hunger Program has partnered with a Gaza organization working on food security

PHP works with Improvement and Development for Communities Center to revive agricultural production and rebuild greenhouses in Gaza

May 8, 2024

Presbyterian Hunger Program has worked for years with the Improvement and Development for Communities Center in Gaza. (Contributed photo)

The Presbyterian Hunger Program has been supporting its partner Improvement and Development for Communities Center (IDCO) in Gaza since 2014 in IDCO’s efforts to improve the food security situation for Gazans.

Back in 2014, food insecurity levels in the Gaza Strip had already exceeded 57%, with more than 36% of Gazans being severely food insecure. The food insecurity numbers had continued trending upward since the 2007 Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, which placed limits on the movement of people and goods, resulting in high unemployment levels and high food prices.

The year 2014 also marked a year when conflict between Israel and Hamas peaked. A total of 96,000 homes in Gaza were damaged or destroyed in the 50-day war. A total of 4,448 acres of agricultural fields had been razed or heavily damaged, and 657 greenhouses were destroyed, 214 were severely damaged and 392 were moderately damaged.

It is within this context that PHP began to partner with IDCO to revive agricultural production on damaged lands, rehabilitate and rebuild greenhouses, and restart greenhouse food production in the Gaza Strip.

Over the past decade, IDCO and Gazan farmers have made great strides towards improving the food security of communities and families. This past September, before the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks and Israel’s retaliatory war in Gaza, the Presbyterian Advisory Committee approved a grant to IDCO for its proposed work to revitalize olive production in the Gaza Strip during the 2024 calendar year.

According to IDCO’s proposal, “Olives are one of the most important pillars of the Palestinian economy, not only the single biggest crop in what remains a largely agricultural economy, but also having deep cultural significance to the Palestinian people and their ties to the land. It is estimated that olive trees account for nearly 45% of cultivated land in Palestine and, in good years, can contribute almost 20% of agriculture output, with estimates suggesting that around 100,000 families depend to some extent upon the olive harvest for their livelihoods. About 29% of Palestinian olives are produced in the Gaza Strip.”

Part of Improvement and Development for Communities Centers’ work includes rebuilding and sustaining greenhouses in Gaza. (Contributed photo)

Unfortunately, the olive project will probably never be implemented due to the current war and widespread destruction in Gaza. The offices of IDCO have been destroyed, as have the homes of its staff, and the homes, fields, orchards and greenhouses of the Gazan farmers they were working so tirelessly to serve.

And on Feb. 29, at least 112 Gazans were killed and at least 760 were injured when Israeli Defense Forces opened fire on people attempting to access desperately needed food from humanitarian aid trucks on Haroun Al Rasheed Street in western Gaza City. Civilians swarmed around the newly arrived aid trucks in the hope of getting food, and Israeli forces soon started shooting, witnesses told CNN.

The aid trucks tried to escape the area, accidentally ramming others and causing further deaths and injuries, eyewitnesses told CNN.

According to the United Nations, at least 576,000 people in Gaza are one step away from famine. For famine to be declared, 20% of households have to be facing extreme food shortages, 30% of the population must face acute malnourishment, and there must be at least two hunger-related deaths per 10,000 people per day. That means that at least 115 people will have to die per day from starvation before famine is declared in Gaza.

Israel has made it increasingly difficult to deliver aid to Gaza by road. Aid convoys are being blocked and facing long delays. Jordanian air force pilots started dropping humanitarian aid on Gaza by air, and the U.S. followed suit over the weekend.

Before the war, an average of 300 to 500 trucks of aid were delivered daily to Gaza due to high levels of food insecurity. Since Oct. 21, 2023, only 100 trucks have passed through daily.

Please pray for an end to the violence. Please pray for the nourishment and safety of Gazans.

The Office of Public Witness has issued this Action Alert, asking Presbyterians to contact their legislators to urge a ceasefire and humanitarian aid in Gaza.

Other PC(USA) resources on Israel-Palestine can be found here.

Eileen Schuhmann, Associate for Global Engagement and Resources, Presbyterian Hunger Program

Today’s Focus: Presbyterian Hunger Program has partnered with Improvement and Development for Communities Center in Gaza

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Ian Hall, Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer, Finance & Accounting, Administrative Services Group (A Corp) 
Mark Hare and Jenny Bent, Mission co-workers serving in Costa Rica, World Mission, Presbyterian Mission Agency  

Let us pray

God of mercy and justice, we thank you for the fire that purifies, and the Spirit that sustains. Bless our modest efforts to speak in your name. Amen.