Palestinians stock up on essentials amid surge in Gaza food prices

October saw ‘unprecedented’ spike in cost of water, wheat flour as Palestinians flock to markets on second day of truce.

Palestinians visit an open-air market in Nusseirat refugee camp
Palestinians visit an open-air market in Nuseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip, November 25, 2023, on the second day of the truce between Hamas and Israel [Adel Hana/ AP Photo]

Food prices skyrocketed in Gaza last month, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics has said, amid Israel’s bombardment of the enclave and suffocating siege.

The bureau on Saturday called the surge in October “unprecedented”, at a time when Palestinians are taking advantage of some respite in the fighting to stock up on essential items, on the second day of a four-day truce deal that includes the release of some of the Israeli captives held by Hamas in Gaza in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Thousands of people were seen crowding around stalls and shops at the Nuseirat market in the central Gaza Strip, looking to secure much-needed food supplies. Across the Gaza Strip, people stood in long queues in order to buy wheat and other basic items.

The bureau said food and beverage prices had increased by 10 percent in October, while vegetables and wheat flour saw a 32 and 65 percent rise, respectively. The price of water increased by 100 percent.

Palestinians gather to buy fuel, amid fuel shortages, during a temporary truce between Hamas and Israel, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip November 25
Palestinians gather to buy fuel during a temporary truce between Hamas and Israel, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, November 25, 2023 [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Israel had suspended aid deliveries into the enclave after the conflict broke out on October 7, and restricted fuel supplies, with even bakeries rendered inactive due to the lack of wheat flour, water and fuel. The United Nations and humanitarian organisations have long warned of the “immediate possibility of starvation” and the spread of disease.

The UN said that the truce between Israel and Hamas has enabled it to scale up the delivery of food, water and medicine to the largest volume since the resumption of humanitarian aid convoys to Gaza on October 21.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said on Saturday it had delivered a convoy of 61 trucks carrying aid assistance to Gaza City and northern Gaza, whose residents were ordered by the Israeli military to evacuate.

The UN said earlier this month that people who remained in the north were resorting to “negative coping mechanisms due to food scarcity, including skipping or reducing meals and using unsafe and unhealthy methods for making fire”.

The PRCS said Saturday’s delivery was the largest since the war began. The trucks were “loaded with food and non-food items, water, primary health care medicines, and emergency medical supplies,” it said on X.

As part of the four-day deal between Hamas and Israel, 137 aid trucks entered Gaza on Friday, with the pause in hostilities.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 129,000 litres (34,000 gallons) of fuel crossed into Gaza, along with four trucks carrying cooking gas for the first time since October 7.

However, aid agencies say much more is needed to assist the 2.3 million people living in the besieged enclave, calling the conditions on the ground “catastrophic”.

More than 1.7 million people have now been forcibly displaced across the Gaza Strip, with many sheltering in UN schools, which are experiencing severe overcrowding.

According to the UN, 2.2 million people need food assistance to survive.

More than 44,000 cases of diarrhoea and 70,000 cases of respiratory infections have been reported.

Source: Al Jazeera