Zero Hunger Strategic Review (2017): Update and Review of Progress
The 2017 Zero Hunger Strategic Review identified a set of recommendations and proposed interventions to improve the situation of Palestine’s food and nutrition security (FNS) sector in several aspects. Five years on, the context in Palestine has evolved, necessitating a review of the document to analyze the changes, their causes and impacts, and to analyze the suitability of the recommendations put forward in 2017 for the current context.
In general, socioeconomic conditions in Palestine have deteriorated, and many indicators have changed negatively, impacting Palestine’s ability to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Indicators relating to food security declined between 2018 and 2020. According to the SEFsec 2020 survey, the share of food secure Palestinian households declined by almost seven percentage points over the period, such that less than half of Palestinian households were considered food secure in 2020 (MAS, 2021b). Progress towards SDG 1 (No Poverty) also stalled, reflected in a poverty rate of 30% in 2020, up slightly from 29.2% in 2017 (MAS, 2021c; PCBS, 2017). Unemployment is still one of the main drivers of poverty, which can be seen in the decrease in labor force participation from 45.7% in 2017 to 40.9% in 2020, reaching as low as 35% participation in the Gaza Strip.
Indicators at the nutritional level also present a picture of stagnant or worsening conditions. According to the latest available data in the Palestinian Cluster Survey (2019-2020) from the PCBS, the percentage of children suffering from stunting to a moderate or severe degree increased from 7.4% in 2014 to 8.7% in 2020. Moreover, the percentage of underweight children under the age of 5 increased from 1.4% in 2014 to 2.1% in 2020 (PCBS, 2020b). The prevalence of obesity among Palestinian children has increased at a faster rate, from 3% in 2013 to 6% in 2017.
Changes in the socio-economic environment can be directly linked to key events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the military escalation against the Gaza Strip in 2021. Other causes include the global and local increases in food prices and the decline in international support provided to Palestine as a result of changing donor priorities. In light of these events, the importance of such a review has increased.
This brief review presents the most prominent changes that have occurred in the FNS sector since 2017, as well as the progress made in fulfilling the recommendations of the 2017 Zero Hunger Strategic Review (ZHSR). Perhaps the most prominent results at the national government level that should be highlighted are the development of the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy 2019-2030 (NFNSP) and the National Investment Plan (NIP). This is in addition to the work done on a law for the Ministry of Social Development, which would unify the legal framework regulating the assistance provided by various parties (both local and international) to avoid redundant or conflicting programming (work on the law is still ongoing). Other developments include implementing nutritional awareness activities among different groups, especially children in schools, in addition to further developing the Palestinian National Economic Empowerment Institution (PNEEI), which aims to create micro and small projects for marginalized groups to gradually reduce their dependence on relief assistance. The period since the ZHSR also saw development in the National Transfer System, which integrates the assistance provided by local and international agencies under the umbrella of the Ministry of Social Development.
The implementation of 2017 ZHSR recommendations faced a number of setbacks, such as pre-existing issues related to the lack of coordination between governmental and non-governmental agencies associated with the FNS sector. Furthermore, relief assistance increased during the period despite the goals to reduce relief assistance while increasing developmental assistance. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the weak regulatory and institutional framework surrounding small-scale farming and national product protection, as well as the overall vulnerability of the agriculture sector to shocks. Progress in the monitoring of food assistance was limited, such that food assistance is still not subject to a nutritional assessment process for the beneficiaries of this assistance.
The review puts forward a specific set of recommendations, most of which serve to achieve the unrealized recommendations of the 2017 ZHSR. The most notable recommendations relate to the necessity of implementing NIP and NFNSP through the formation of a Food and Nutrition Security Council, in addition to linking the bodies responsible for FNS related-data collection (PCBS and MoSD) with the relevant decision-making bodies. The review also recommends developing the capabilities of Palestinian National Economic Empowerment Institution (PNEEI), in order to stimulate growth in SMEs and assist self-employed workers. Furthermore, the review emphasizes cooperation between MoSD and international and local NGOs in developing scientifically-based mechanisms to monitor and forecast the prevalence of food insecurity and the status of marginalized groups. The review also recommends specific social protection interventions that target small-scale producers and youth in rural areas with the goal of promoting innovation and mobilizing financial support. Other recommended interventions include scaling up training programs, digital job-matching services, entrepreneurship programming, and vocational training in coordination with PA agencies to increase opportunity-based self-employment relative to necessity-based self-employment.