COVID-19 leaves one Israeli family in four at risk of food insecurity

A report by the Leket organisation shows that two million Israeli lack “sufficient” nutrition. Pandemic and high prices are among the main factors. New support from the government is expected. For Bishop Marcuzzo, it is essential to create jobs, and restart tourism and pilgrimages. Meanwhile, the situation in the West Bank and Gaza is even worse.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Almost one Israeli family in four with dependent children is experiencing food insecurity, that is about two million people without access to adequate nutrition, this according the annual report by Leket, an Israeli anti-poverty NGO that provides various welfare and food aid services.

According to its data, the affected population includes 774,000 children, or one Israeli child in three. Overall, at least 663,000 families lack sufficient resources to meet their daily dietary needs.

For Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, former Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem of the Latins, “This is an astonishing figure”. Still, “the situation in Israel is far better than in the West Bank and Gaza” where poverty rates are “tragic”

The health emergency triggered by the coronavirus has affected families’ welfare, including those who work "in the tourism sector or pilgrimages to the Holy Land,” the prelate explained.

“At this critical juncture, the government has intervened as much as possible in an attempt to meet to needs,” he added.

According to the Leket report, the high cost of living and the economic crisis, exacerbated by COVID-19 restrictions on travel and economic activities, have contributed to higher food insecurity.

In fact, 155,000 plunged into a level of poverty never experienced before because of the coronavirus.

However, for low-income families, who were already suffering even before the pandemic, the onset of COVID -19 and the economic crisis worsened things, this according to Leket CEO Eran Weintrob.

“Although the government allocated NIS 100 million (US million), the amount needed in order to solve this situation is about NIS 1 billion (2 million),” he said.

For its part, the Israeli Welfare Ministry promised to increase allocations for food security, but this has yet to happen.

A report by the Knesset Research and Information Centre published in August found that at the end of 2020, only 200,000 families were suffering from food shortages, three times lower than the real figure, the Times of Israel reported.

Some “200 charities support 80,000 food-insecure families daily, and these associations are waiting for government funding in order to respond to the great needs,” Weintrob explained.

Food insecurity is linked to unemployment, which rose by a million people at the height of the pandemic. Today, while the economy shows signs of a timid recovery, hundreds of thousands of people are still looking for work.

“Many families who relied on religious tourism, as guides, in transport, in holy places have suffered over the last period,” Bishop Marcuzzo said. Now “Things have started to pick up in tourism, but only for individual trips or domestic travel; pilgrimages are still on hold.”

For the prelate. the pandemic has dealt a very hard blow, “and now we are trying as much as possible to restart".