Since the building of the “security fence” begun in the northern West Bank and around Jerusalem, thousands of Palestinian farmers have been cut off from their land, workers from job opportunities and merchants from their markets. Thanks to an ECHO-funded project implemented by the World Food Programme with the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees, 5,000 bread winners who lost their jobs are employed on community works and receive food in return. In the Qalqiliya area, four families who have been helped by this project tell their stories. Each illustrates the humanitarian, economic and social consequences on Palestinian lives of the fence, considered by many as a “separation wall”.
Ahmed Ismail Ahmed Al-Sheikh, 33 years old, father of five: “I have been unemployed for months, sitting at home and doing nothing. I could hardly pay the electricity and water bills”. In December, though, Ahmed got some work terracing fields located along the wall, in the village of Sanniriya. In return, he received 85 kilogrammes of food, including sugar, oil, lentils and sesame flour, to sustain his family. According to the land owner, 2.5 hectares were confiscated here to allow the construction of the wall, four months ago. More than 100 trees were uprooted.
Ahlam, 5 years old, and her sister Hala, 3, daughters of Abu Mohammed: In the 1990s, Abu Mohammed earned 200 shekels a day (around 40 euros) working as a foreman for Israeli construction companies. Now aged 63, he has not been able to pay his house rent for the past four years. Since most Palestinians are not allowed to work across the Green Line, competition for jobs in the West Bank has increased. To support all those in need in the community, WFP employs every worker for four days a month maximum. But Abu Mohammed offers to do more as a volunteer.
Khaled Abu Hijlah, farmer in the village of ‘Azzun ‘Atma: “I have been sleeping on the site of my farm for two weeks. My house is only seven kilometres from here, in the same community, but across the wall. Now, I need a permit from the Israeli army to reach it, which I don’t have. If I leave the farm, I may not be allowed back. I used to sell most of my fruit in Nablus and Hebron, the two biggest cities in the West Bank. There is no market on this side of the wall.” WFP employs seven workers to help Khaled cultivate his farm.
Ismail Youssef Issa’s family, residents of ‘Azzun: A casual worker, Ismail is one of 12 Palestinians employed by WFP to terrace 2.5 hectares planted with olives tree in the nearby village of Sanniriya. His wife, Um Ahmed, says: “We eat chicken only once a week. Meat and fruit are too expensive. Our neighbours kindly provide us with tomatoes and vegetables.” Ismail and Um Ahmed have seven children, aged from 7 to 21. Almost every day, Ahmed, 15, who left school at the age of nine, helps his father in the fields to earn his monthly food basket.
ECHO Regional Information Officer - Amman