The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is helping Palestinian farmers, shepherds and fishermen in Gaza and the West Bank whose livelihoods have been severely affected by ongoing difficulties in getting essential products into those areas.FAO currently has 14 projects – amounting to $10 million – in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, focusing on areas such as horticulture and greenhouse and irrigation rehabilitation. There has been serious concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza, given that agriculture and fisheries have been severely impacted by lack of inputs, constraints on farm exports and restrictions on fishing areas. While some agricultural inputs can be purchased locally, those procured abroad are more difficult to import, including plastic sheeting for greenhouses which is currently awaiting clearance by Israeli authorities. During a visit to region last month, FAO Emergency Operations Senior Planning Officer Suzanne Raswant said she was “impressed at the energy and commitment of the FAO Gaza team which is working hard to deliver services and assistance under very difficult conditions.” In addition to the current projects, FAO is seeking an additional $7.3 million this year to help restore livelihoods for farmers, those raising livestock and fishermen, as well as to improve food security. FAO is also working to help Gazans detect and respond to bird flu outbreaks, including through training and the provision of essential testing equipment. Earlier this week, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs highlighted the worsening conditions in Gaza and the West Bank resulting from closures and restrictions on the movement of goods and people during his recent visit to the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel.“After eight months of very serious restrictions on the movement of goods, the political and security crisis in and around Gaza has increasingly severe humanitarian consequences,” said John Holmes, who also serves as UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.He called for the lifting of the regime of closure and restrictions – which has seriously affected the daily lives and economy activities of those living in the West Bank – in a way that would not jeopardize Israel’s legitimate security concerns. 21 February 2008The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is helping Palestinian farmers, shepherds and fishermen in Gaza and the West Bank whose livelihoods have been severely affected by ongoing difficulties in getting essential products into those areas.