Posts misrepresent UN aid to Gaza as ‘expired’
Aid packages expire on 22 November 2023
Claim: The UN has sent “expired aid” to Gaza, Palestine.
Fact: The expiry date on the food items, part of the WFP aid sent to Gaza is 22 November 2023, more than two weeks from the time of writing.
On 4 November 2023, the Facebook page ‘Stand for palestine’ posted (archive) a picture of what appears to be a product by the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP). The following text — in both Arabic and English — is superimposed on the image:
“مساعدات الأم المتحدة لغزة منتهية الصلاحية !!
[UN aid to Gaza has expired!!]”
“Expired aid From the United Nations to Gaza”
The post is accompanied by the following caption:
“Expired products are been aid to Palestinian ppl by United Nation ― 4/11/23
Aur kitna zulm?:) ab bhi kuch nahi bologe?
How much more? You guys still won’t say anything?”
The phrase “Aur kitna zulm?:) ab bhi kuch nahi bologe?” is in Roman Urdu and translates to: “How much more cruelty?:) Will you still not speak up?”
The first aid truck to enter Gaza since 7 October 2023 was allowed in on 21 October, via the Rafah crossing, which is controlled by Egypt and does not share a border with Israel, as Reuters reported (archive). It cited UN officials as saying, “at least 100 trucks a day are required in Gaza to cover urgent needs”.
The WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), in a joint report, warned (archive) that “acute food insecurity is highly likely to worsen in Palestine during the outlook period of November 2023 to April 2024, due to the sharp escalation in conflict”. One of its primary recommendations is an “endorsement of a plea from the United Nations Secretary-General for a ceasefire”.
On 4 November, Thomas White, the director of Gaza affairs at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), underlined that there was a dire need for water in the Gaza Strip and that the “average Palestinian in Gaza is living on two pieces of Arabic bread made from flour the United Nations had stockpiled in the region”, according to The Associated Press (archive).
The publication also quoted the UN deputy Mideast coordinator, Lynn Hastings, as saying, “Many people are relying on brackish or saline groundwater, if at all,” as only one of the total of three water supply lines from Israel is operational.
What’s going on in Gaza?
On 7 October 2023, the Izzeddin al-Qassam Brigades — the military wing of Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza — launched (archive) a “surprise attack” on Israel via sea, land, and air. In response, the Israeli government formally declared (archive) war on Hamas on 8 October 2023.
According to a 6 November 2023 update by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 9,700 Palestinians have been killed and over 24,800 injured since the 7 October attack. Similarly, at least 1,400 Israelis have been killed and upwards of 5,400 injured.
Ever since the October 7 attack, a flood of misleading, old, and out-of-context pictures, videos, and claims have surfaced in the media.
Fact or Fiction?
Upon reverse-searching the image, as well as searching key phrases from the post, we found that the photo is actually a screenshot from a longer video — which is 18 seconds long — found here (archive).
We requested Rana, a fact-checker at the Palestinian outlet, Tahaqaq, for the translation of what the person filming the video is saying. According to her, the translated comment is as follows:
“We received biscuits from the World Food Programme in Gaza. Of course, we thank them, but there is a problem. The biscuits have a remaining shelf life of 20 days, meaning they have already expired. Nevertheless, we appreciate their contribution.”
At the 00:11-second mark, the visible manufacturing date is 23/11/2022, or 23 November 2022, and the expiration date is 22/11/2023, or 22 November 2023. It is understood that the aid trucks were held off in Egypt as negotiations took place between authorities.
“More than 200 trucks and 3,000 tonnes of aid are positioned at or near the Rafah crossing, according to the head of the Red Crescent for North Sinai, Khalid Zayed,” The Guardian reported (archive), as did Voice of America (archive), on 19 and 20 October 2023, respectively.
Therefore, the shorter consumption period of food items that are part of the aid convoy before they expire is understandable. “Residents and officials have also complained that there’s not enough food coming through Rafah and much of it has already expired or will expire before it can reach people in need,” CNBC reported (archive).
Moreover, ABC News quoted Lynn Hastings, the UN deputy Mideast coordinator, as saying (archive) “she was aware of the reports of expired food but could not independently confirm them as the World Food Program’s food shipments of date bars wouldn’t expire for another month”.
In a clarification, it wrote, “The @WFP biscuits in #Gaza are safe to eat for the weeks indicated on the packs until early next month. We expect them to be distributed & eaten before this date.
They're ideal for emergencies, as families need condensed nutrition & are unable to cook. pic.twitter.com/HPIJUHhUKk
— WFP in the Middle East & North Africa (@WFP_MENA) November 4, 2023
“They’re ideal for emergencies, as families need condensed nutrition & are unable to cook,” the WFP added.
In a separate tweet (archive), its media wing wrote, “WFP date bars being distributed in Gaza are not expired and are safe to eat. The ready-to-eat date bars are a vital source of concentrated nutrition during emergencies when cooking facilities may not be available.”
WFP date bars being distributed in Gaza are not expired and are safe to eat.
The ready-to-eat date bars are a vital source of concentrated nutrition during emergencies when cooking facilities may not be available.
— WFP Media (@WFP_Media) November 4, 2023
However, as of writing time, there are still more than two weeks before the food items expire. The claim, therefore, is misleading.
On X, @jacksonhinklle (archive) — who has more than two million followers — tweeted the misleading claim, which received a million views. Similarly, @stillgray (archive) — who has over 831,900 followers — posted the same claim and garnered upwards of 2.4 million views. Other posts can be found here, here, here, and here.
The claim also appeared on Threads — Meta’s competition for X — here.
Conclusion: The expiry date on the food items, part of the aid the WFP sent to Gaza, is 22 November 2023 which is more than two weeks as of writing time.
Background image in cover photo: WFPPakistan
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