Funding shortage leads to World Food Programme cuts for Palestinians

JERUSALEM (AFP) – The World Food Programme (WFP) has suspended or reduced aid for some of its Palestinian beneficiaries in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip due to funding shortages, an official with the organisation said last Sunday.

Some 27,000 Palestinians are no longer receiving aid through the United Nations programme since January 1 in the West Bank, said Stephen Kearney, the organisation’s Director for the Palestinian Territories.

Another 165,000, including 110,000 in Gaza, are receiving 80 per cent of the usual amount, he said.

The cuts were decided upon after a gradual reduction in donations over the past nearly four years, with United States (US) cuts having the biggest effect.

In 2018, the WFP assisted 250,000 people in Gaza and 110,000 in the West Bank.

A Palestinian man loads flour bags onto a donkey cart outside the United Nations World Food Programme distribution centre in the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip on November 7, 2007. – AP

In the village of Yatta near Hebron in the southern West Bank, Maha Al-Nawajah said she is buying fewer necessities.

“In December last year, they did not renew my card,” said the 52-year-old mother, referring to the WFP card that allowed her to buy groceries for 12 members of her extended family.

She said family members were unemployed.

“My sons do not have permission to enter into Israel and my husband receives it occasionally” and can earn some cash during those times, she said.

The West Bank has an unemployment rate of 18 per cent and some Palestinians seek to work in Israel with the hope of earning a higher salary.

But permits are needed to do so and Israel is selective in who is given one.

The WFP launched a funding appeal on December 19 last year and received additional contributions from the European Union (EU) and Switzerland, but the amount remains short, Kearney said.

It said at the time that it was in need of USD57 million. It will now seek contributions from new donors in an effort to fill the gap, he said.