Situated in the Near East region, Palestine is a small, fragmented territory, involved since 1948 in a conflict with Israel. Natural resources are scarce, water resources are diminishing rapidly and the country depends primarily on imports for its sources of energy.
Before the start of the second Intifada , progress had been achieved in almost all areas relevant to the Millennium Development Goals. Child mortality and maternal mortality rates were low. School enrolment was high. The poverty rate had decreased, and environmental issues were starting to be addressed. The outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000 is threatening these achievements. Some indicators of health, education, gender, poverty and of the environment have regressed. The political unrest has damaged the socio-economic infrastructure and shifted efforts from development into relief and humanitarian aid.
The severe restrictions on movement of goods and people combined with the loss of jobs and incomes and the destruction of assets and property since September 2000 have had a major impact on food security. Currently, the dietary energy supply, mainly constituted of fruit and vegetables and cereals, is adequate but the country is highly dependent on cereals imports. As a consequence of urbanization, the diversity of the diet is progressing.
Breastfeeding is a common practice but the exclusive breastfeeding rate remains low. The nutritional status of preschool children has worsened since 2000. Currently, the situation is improving slightly but one out of ten preschool children remains stunted. Major determinants of malnutrition are limited access to health services and food insecurity. Children of Gaza Strip are particularly affected. Meanwhile there are signs of a nutrition transition, as prevalence of overweight and obesity are high among adult women.
Micronutrient deficiencies are still widespread. Prevalence of goitre remains high among school-age children in Middle and Southern regions of the West Bank. Despite important efforts made, a large part of the households still do not use adequately iodized salt. Subclinical vitamin A deficiency affects preschool children. An effective programme of supplementation is now in place and plans to fortify foods are envisaged. Anemia affects almost a quarter of young children and half of women of childbearing age. The coverage of iron supplementation needs to be increased.