Middle East Monitor / June 1, 2023
The United Nations World Food Program is facing great difficulty in providing food aid to the Palestinian Territories due to lack of funding, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis afflicting the Gaza Strip as a result of the Israeli blockade for over 16 years, humanitarian officials said, Anadolu Agency reports.
“There is great difficulty in continuing to provide food aid in the Palestinian Territories due to lack of funding, which prompted the program to take difficult decisions,” Alia Zaki, spokesperson for the World Food Program, told Anadolu.
“Severe funding shortfalls in Palestine are forcing WFP to suspend vital assistance for more than 200,000 people,” the WFP said in a statement on 11 May.
“Since the announcement of this decision, there has been no positive development to reverse the situation,” Zaki said.
The funding shortage will put a definitive stop to the WFP’s operations by August.
Economists predict that this step would cause more damage to the Palestinian economic sector in Gaza, amid a rise in unemployment and poverty rates.
The WFP provides food assistance to vulnerable non-refugee Palestinians, in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Development and the International Associations Foundation.
According to the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, 61.6 per cent of the population of Gaza, approximately 2.3 million people, live in poverty.
The unemployment rate reached about 47 per cent by the end of 2022.
‘Struggle for a meal’
Zaki explained that, in early May, the program reduced the value of the voucher provided per person in the Palestinian Territories from $12.4 to $10.3.
“This reduction included all 275,000 beneficiaries of the program in the Palestinian Territories,” she stated.
Starting in June, the aid will be cut off to 60 per cent of the beneficiaries of the program – 200,000 people in the Palestinian Territories, according to the UN official.
Aid will continue to be provided to the most vulnerable until August. Then, the services will be completely suspended in the Palestinian Territories, she added.
Zaki indicated that the WFP needs $51 million to maintain the necessary food and cash assistance in Palestine until the end of 2023.
She pointed out that “two out of three people in Gaza struggle hard to get a meal.”
The cut in aid will also affect 300 local stores contracted with the program in the Palestinian Territories.
“Every month, the program pumps about $3 million into the Palestinian economy, through its direct programs related to electronic cash transfers, which allow the purchase of foodstuffs,” the official said.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Development in Gaza, Aziza Al-Kahlout, said about 23,300 citizens are benefiting from the food aid through the Ministry.
A Palestinian citizen, Hussam Ahmed, 53, relies on the WFP voucher, which amounts to about 210 shekels, to provide basic necessities for his family.
Composing six members, Ahmed’s family lives in difficult conditions due to poverty as his health problems are preventing him from working.
He fears that his family will suffer further if the aid is stopped.
Objectives and implications
The WFP’s decision is unacceptable in light of the high rates of poverty and unemployment as a result of the siege and the ongoing military aggression on the Gaza Strip, Mohsen Abu Ramadan, a researcher in development affairs, told Anadolu.
Every year, between 12,000 to 15,000 university graduates end up unemployed, Ramadan said, adding the WFP decision is “unjustifiable”.
Ramadan believes this decision includes “political dimensions unrelated to the financial crisis, especially in light of the continued provision of aid in other countries suffering from humanitarian crises.”
Stopping the aid would also increase food insecurity in the Strip, according to Ramadan.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) also expressed its concern about the WFP decision, stating that it will badly impact the lives of vulnerable social groups in the Strip.
More than half of the population suffers from poverty, while 64.4 per cent suffers from food insecurity, according to PCHR.