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Israel destroying Gaza agriculture, food security, NGOs say

May 25, 2010 8:13 P.M. (Updated: May 26, 2010 12:32 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Over 60 percent of Gaza households are food insecure as a result of the ongoing blockade Israel imposed on the coastal enclave, leading to a collapse of its formal economy, the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) said Tuesday.

AIDA, which represents over 80 NGOs, called on Israel for "full and unfettered access into and out of the Gaza Strip for materials and exports necessary for the revival of the agriculture and fishing sectors."

As Gaza's population becomes increasingly dependent on aid, the organizations urged Israel to implement immediate measures which include the entry of agricultural input materials such as plastic irrigation piping, quality seeds/seedlings and veterinary drugs into Gaza "needed to jumpstart the agricultural sector and allow the export of produce" and the lifting of access restrictions on farming and fishing areas.

In addition, AIDA called on Israel to allow the entry of material required to "enable significant upgrades to Gaza’s wastewater treatment infrastructure to address environmental concerns in order to avoid additional contamination of agricultural land; and to create an alternative source of water for irrigation."

In the absence of such improvements, the entire fishing and farming sectors in the Gaza Strip are at risk of collapse, AIDA wrote.

A rapid recovery of the fishing sector will reinstate the local population’s access to affordable fresh foods, as food insecurity currently threatens the health and wellbeing of the population, the statement read.

"Israel’s import and access restrictions continue to suffocate the agriculture sector and directly contribute to rising food insecurity. Of particular concern, farmers and fishers’ lives are regularly put at risk, due to Israel’s enforcement of its access restrictions," the statement read, calling on the lifting of restrictions to restore fishermen's livelihoods.

Moreover, for Gaza's agricultural sector to succeed, Palestinians require "access to materials necessary to prevent long-term damage to soil, stemming from the uncontrolled dumping of sewage, salination, unexploded ordinance and other contamination," Philippe Lazzarini said, the acting Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territories.

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