Socio-Economic & Food Security Survey 2018 (Non-UN Document)

This is a non-United Nations document. The United Nations provides these documents only as a convenience for reference purposes, and the inclusion of a document does not imply the endorsement of its content by the United Nations.

Executive Summary

The report explores the levels and dimensions of food and nutrition security and insecurity in Palestine in 2018 at the household level, and tracks their changes in the preceding five years. The analysis is based on data provided by the Socio-Economic Food Security (SEFSec) survey, which were collected in 2014 ,2013, and 2018 by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization for the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP). The report also utilizes data from multiple sources, mainly including the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics’s (PCBS) Labor Force Survey, Population, Buildings, and Establishment Census of 2017, and PCBS’s national account estimates, to illustrate and explain changes and geographical distribution of food security.

To examine extent and levels of food insecurity, the report utilizes household-level data and classifies them as: food insecure (including severely food insecure and moderately food insecure); marginally food secure; and, food secure. The findings show that 256 thousand households (comprising 1.6 million individuals) are food insecure in Palestine today, representing %26.9 of all households. By category of food security, the data show that %14.9 of all households are severely food insecure, as compared to %12 moderately food insecure, %18.6 marginally food secure, and %54.5 considered food secure.

Food Security Level in State of Palestine

Food security levels had improved in 2014 relative to 2013: the share of food secure households increased in one year from %54 by 7 percentage points, while the severely food insecure had declined from %15.8 by 3 percentage points. Nonetheless, this gain had been reversed by 2018, perhaps suggesting a chronic, rather than transitory, weakness. Indeed, the share of the two food insecure categories (severe and moderate) was only 2.5 percentage points lower in 2018 than in 2013.  As for the share of food secure households, the data show that the decrease in 2018, relative to 2014, reflects more households shifting from the food secure category to the marginally food secure category.

The extent of food security exhibits a substantial regional divergence. The West Bank’s share of severely and moderately food insecure households has persistently decreased since 2013, to %3 and %6.2 respectively of all household by 2018. Consistently, the share of food secure has risen standing at %68.3 in 2018, despite the shifts from food secure to marginally food secure category. On the other hand, food security conditions have worsened in Gaza Strip relative to 2013 and 2014. The share of food secure households was down to an unprecedented low of %27 in 2018, expanding the share of severely food insecure households alone to an all-time high of %38.8. In total, Gaza Strip accommodates most of the food insecure households in Palestine: as much as %87 of the severely food insecure and a mere %16 of the food secure households.

The poor food security conditions in Gaza Strip are directly related to the repercussions of the Palestinian political polarization as well as recurrent negative shocks that culminated in 2007 as Hamas took over Gaza Strip and formed its separate government. As a result, Israel installed a severe blockade, restricting trade as well as movement of people. In the following years (2012 ,2008, and 2014), Israel waged three military attacks that left the economy of Gaza Strip in shambles and pushed the local economy into a deep recession.

The level of food security, in 2018 and recently, also varies at the sub-regional level. The West Bank’s highest levels of food insecurity persist in the south (where it accommodates half of the severely food insecure households) alongside a moderate decrease in the levels of food security in the center. The greatest gains in food security were realized in the north of the West Bank. The case is different in Gaza Strip such that foods security conditions worsened persistently over time for all sub-regions, more profoundly in the north and the center, where the latter is the biggest loser as the share of food secure households dropped from %46 in 2013 to %26 in 2018.

At the level of place of residence, the West Bank’s share of moderately and severely food insecure households are the highest in rural areas. Still, food security conditions improved over time across the board, albeit more substantially in refugee camps. As for the Gaza Strip, the data show no significant differences across localities in 2018, whereby levels of food security for all have ubiquitously worsened. The only difference was in 2014, whence the conditions improved in refugee camps but only briefly.

The report further extends the geographical analysis to gauge differences in the level of food security between Areas “A” and “B” in one hand and “C” on the other hand. The findings show that the share of severely and moderately food insecure households in Area “C” is multiple fold than in Areas “A” and “B”. This conclusion holds for all reported years. The findings also show that the share of food secure households rose in 2014 in all areas. Nonetheless, the gain was almost lost in 2018 for the households in Area “C”. Even though the share of food secure household also decreased in Areas “A” and “B”, it remained above the level in 2013. Markedly, %30 of the total number of severely food insecure households in the West Bank reside in Area “C”.

Factors Explaining Level of Food Security

To explain the factors driving changes documented over time in food security in Palestine, the report explores the changes in its determinants (poverty incidence, food deprivation, and resilience). In the West Bank, poverty incidence and resilience remained relatively stable in 2013 and 2014 and had improved by 2018. Food deprivation, on the other hand, was exacerbated. In sum, the decline in the share of food secure households by 2018 is explained by the increase in the share of moderately food deprived households, while the decrease in the share of severely and moderately food insecure is accounted for by decrease in poverty rate and improvement in resilience. As for Gaza Strip, the findings suggest that the low levels of food security in 2018 is driven by a perfect storm of adverse factors: more households have become poorer, less resilient, and more food deprived.

Consumption and Expenditure Patterns

The report also highlights patterns of consumption as another driver of differences in the level of food security between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The findings show that households in the West Bank, regardless the extent of food security, spend (in absolute terms) more on food and on all other items, compared to those in Gaza Strip. This has been the case since 2013, though the difference in the level of expenditures has widened over time; mostly driven by the decrease in the households’ purchasing power in Gaza Strip.

The report assesses the nutritional dimensions of food security; dietary quality and dietary quantity. The former accounts for the frequency, per week of consuming certain groups of food and the associated nutritional importance, while the latter emphasizes the extent to which households consume insufficient dietary quantity. Consistent with the regional disparities in household purchasing power, the data show that the share of households with insufficient dietary quantity in Gaza Strip in 2018 amounts to %46.6 relative to %6.2 in the West Bank. The data also show that the value of this indicator slightly declined over time in Gaza Strip, while it improved in the West Bank. As for dietary quality indicator, the findings show that households, regardless the level of food security, maintained the same consumption patterns over time for most of the food groups, both in the West Bank and in Gaza Strip.

Coping Strategies to Counter Food Insecurity

This report identifies the coping strategies that households have utilized to counter insufficient food or lack of money available to buy food. In terms of the degree of utilizing copying strategies, %79.5 of the households in the West Bank, versus %8 in Gaza Strip, have not used any. For households that have used such strategies, the analysis shows that the number one strategy across the West Bank and Gaza Strip is refraining from consuming expensive food. In addition, a large section of households has utilized strategies with adverse effects, such as reduced number of meals and consuming low-quality food. If persistent, such coping strategies are expected to boost incidence of communicable diseases, such as diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. As for non-food coping strategies, they were used by %26 of the households in the West Bank versus %87 of the households in Gaza Strip. The findings show that buying food on credit or borrowing food is the most frequent strategy both in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Household Profiling: Demographic and Socioeconomic Characteristics

This report explores the characteristics of the food secure/insecure households, focusing on demographic and mainly labour market indicators.  It shows that %22 of the severely food insecure households in the West Bank are headed by women, twice as much as the share of women headed households. This pattern does not exist in Gaza Strip, where the pervasive dire economic conditions dilute the significance of the household-head gender. The report explores other household characteristics showing that extent of food insecurity is positively correlated with household size. It also

shows that food secure households, on average, earn twice as much as the severely food insecure in the West Bank, though the income difference is lower in Gaza Strip.

Performance in the labour market appears to be linked to food security conditions. Focusing on the household head, data from the West Bank show that level of food security is highly correlated with employment status; food insecurity is directly linked to a lower employment rate and lower labor force participation.  Half of the severely food insecure household-heads are out of the labour force. The connection between food security and labour market in Gaza Strip is similar, though employment opportunities are scarcer for all food security categories.

The main source of income of all food security categories in the West Bank is paid wages from the private sector. However, %18 of the severely food insecure and %14 of the moderately food insecure live mainly on government social assistance. As for Gaza Strip, years of blockade and political polarization have marginalized the significance of the private sector, paving the way for the government and international institution, like UNRWA and other international organizations, to be the main source of income.

Nature, Value, and Source of Assistance

Humanitarian and social assistance are among the most commonly used interventions to tackle food insecurity. Nationally, %31 of the Palestinian households revealed that they have received assistance in 2018. This rate has declined relative to earlier years, mainly 2014. Driven by dire economic conditions, the share of households in Gaza Strip which received assistance in 2018 is %70 compared to %11 in the West Bank. Unlike the West Bank, the share of this categories in Gaza Strip has risen relative to 2013.

In terms of type of assistance, the finding shows that cash and food are the most common in both regions, though more households in Gaza Strip are relying on these types. Nonetheless, the share of food assistance has steadily declined in both regions, but for different reasons. Most likely, the relative improvement of economic conditions in the West Bank has played a role. Nonetheless, the decline in Gaza Strip is driven by distributional changes; shifting from food to food vouchers.

The monthly median value of assistance a household received in 2018 was 120 NIS (125 NIS in the West Bank and 111.7 NIS in Gaza Strip).[1] Classified by food security categories, the results show that the value of assistance is higher for the severely food insecure in both regions. The data also show that the value of assistance has decreased over time. The decline in the value of assistance has surely contributed to deteriorating food security conditions there. Markedly, the value of food assistance, the main type of assistance, has drastically decreased since 2013, approximately cut in half to 41.4 NIS in the West Bank and 60 NIS in Gaza Strip. The value of cash assistance has decreased by half in the West Bank, where it amounted in 2018 to 125 NIS, while it decreased by %15 in Gaza Strip standing at 254 NIS. The value of food coupons has also declined by a larger magnitude in both regions, down to some 69 NIS monthly in the West Bank and 41 NIS in Gaza Strip.

The analysis is extended to explore whether the value per type of assistance varies by household characteristics. The data show no significant differences between refugees and non-refugees in the West Bank is similar, except for food assistance. Relatively, the value of food assistance that the refugees receive both in the West Bank and Gaza is higher, reflecting the special role of UNRWA in that respect. Similar conclusion holds when classifying type of assistance by gender of household head. Cash makes up most of the total value of assistance that Female Headed Households (FHHs) receive, mainly in the West Bank. However, the composition of assistance is more diversified for their male peers.

The Ministry of Social Development (MoSD) is the main source of assistance in the West Bank. It covers half of the households that received assistance in 2018, whereas the UNRWA is the main source of assistance in Gaza Strip reaching %70 of all assisted households.  The share of households receiving assistance from MoSD in the West Bank slightly declined relative to 2013. This is unlike the case in the West Bank, where the share of households remained stable. Despite the significant drop in 2014, the share of West Bank’s households receiving assistance from the UNRWA improved relative to 2013. The corresponding UNRWA share in Gaza Strip slightly increased relative to 2013.

[1]  The monthly median assistance is calculated as the median sum of all types of assistance received by each household over the reference period (six months prior to the time of data collection).

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