The World Bank has warned of “hidden hunger” resulting from the heightened food insecurity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
It published a report on Monday expressing concern over the poor nutritional status of the Palestinian population, underlining the high prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies among groups for whom good nutrition is particularly important, such as children under five, the pregnant and postnatal women.
“In the West Bank and Gaza, heightened food insecurity contributes to an insufficient intake of micronutrients, and poor households especially have limited access to micronutrient-rich foods, such as red meat, fresh vegetables, and milk,” the report read.
It pointed out that other factors, such as the physical barriers that limit access to health services, as well as prolonged periods of insecurity, prevent many initiatives that have been taken to address micronutrient deficiencies from having much effect.
The report warned against taking no action, stressing that it would lead to grave consequences for human health and economic development.
It highlighted several health problems in Gaza, where people mostly suffer from anemia.
According to Ministry of Health and national nutrition surveys conducted in 2018 and 2020, over half of pregnant women and over half of children aged 6–23 months were anemic in the enclave.
In the West Bank, however, anemia is a moderate public health problem, with more than a quarter of pregnant women and more than a quarter of children aged 6–23 months anemic.
High proportions of the Palestinian population are also deficient in vitamins A, D, and E, which play key roles in vision, bone health, and immune function, the report added.
Despite a decade of efforts by the health ministry, this problem still exists.