MCC food crosses border into Gaza

Amid crisis-level hunger, many trucks are turned away, but MCC’s gets through

Al-Najd Developmental Forum staff unload emergency food from Mennonite Central Committee in Gaza for distribution to families in Deir al Balah and surrounding areas. — Al-Najd Developmental Forum Al-Najd Developmental Forum staff unload emergency food from Mennonite Central Committee in Gaza for distribution to families in Deir al Balah and surrounding areas. — Al-Najd Developmental Forum

With famine imminent in Gaza, Mennonite Central Committee has delivered a truckload of emergency food for besieged families. As part of a convoy transporting humanitarian relief via Jordan, the truck sat for more than a week waiting to cross the border but finally made its way through the Kerem Abu Salem crossing into Gaza on March 19.

An MCC partner, Al-Najd Developmental Forum, received the lifesaving delivery from the first of six planned truckloads, including locally purchased food such as chickpeas, lentils, rice, flour, cooking oil, canned meat, fish and beans.

The packages will be delivered to 665 displaced families living in tent camps in Deir al Balah and other locations between Gaza City and Rafah, known as the “Middle Area” of the Gaza Strip. It’s harder for families living in the Middle Area to access humanitarian relief than it is for those who fled further south.

“We’ve been blessed to work with a great partner in Jordan, but the restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities have caused delays that have been difficult to work around,” said Sarah Funkhouser, MCC representative for Jordan, Palestine and Israel along with her husband, Seth Malone.

She praised the “steadfastness and dedication of our partners . . . who have been forced to operate in an impossible environment.”

After weeks of unsuccessfully navigating complicated logistics to bring a shipment of food through the Rafah crossing into Gaza through Egypt, MCC was able to connect with a partner in Jordan to bring food supplies through the Kerem Abu Salem crossing instead. Once the supplies were purchased in Jordan, MCC staff from the Jordan, Palestine and Israel team inspected the items and hand-packed the food into boxes for distribution.

“As a Palestinian, I was happy to help check and pack food boxes for our sisters and brothers in Gaza, knowing that every item in the box we picked together is greatly needed,” said an MCC staff member who helped pack the food packages.

Restrictions by the Israeli government on supplies going into Gaza caused long delays at the border. Convoluted and time-intensive inspections led to a long line of trucks waiting to cross. Due to seemingly arbitrary decisions by the Israeli authorities, many trucks carrying life-saving supplies have been turned away. MCC’s shipment of food packages sat in a warehouse for three weeks until it was cleared to enter the line of trucks.

When the truck finally made it across the border, Al-Najd staff had only a few hours to unload the supplies into smaller vehicles that would bring the packages the rest of the way to families in the Middle Area.

For the 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, every resource is scarce. The entire population is facing crisis-level hunger, with more than 677,000 experiencing a catastrophic level of food insecurity, on the brink of famine.

While MCC and many other organizations continue to advocate to governments for a cease-fire and humanitarian access, the Israeli government has tightened its embargo on the Gaza Strip, severely limiting the import of essential supplies.

MCC plans to send five more shipments of emergency food to support 2,000 families — about 12,000 people — over the course of the project. This relief is directed toward families with exceptional needs, including those who have lost their primary caregivers.

To avoid looting, deliveries will be staggered so that food baskets are distributed quickly and in smaller batches.

This project is part of a $1.2 million project funded through MCC’s account at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. This includes funding from the Humanitarian Coalition, matching funds from the Canadian government and gifts from donors to MCC’s emergency response in Gaza.

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