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Funding shortage leads to World Food Programme cuts for Palestinians

FILE: A Palestinian woman sits next to sacks of flour outside the UN Relief and Works Agency, (UNRWA) aid distribution station in Gaza City, Wednesday, June 20, 2007.
(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
US President Donald Trump has cut some $500 million in Palestinian aid

The World Food Programme has suspended or reduced aid for some of its Palestinian beneficiaries in the West Bank and Gaza Strip due to funding shortages, an official with the organization said 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 organization's director for the Palestinian territories.

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

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

“WFP has been forced, unfortunately, to make drastic cuts to the number of people that we support across Palestine,” Stephen Kearney, the program’s coordinator for the West Bank and Gaza told Reuters news agency at the end of 2018. 

“It’s not just WFP, it’s across the whole humanitarian community as donor contributions significantly fall,” he explained.

US President Donald Trump has cut some $500 million in Palestinian aid.

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

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

AFP/Archives

"In December, 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 percent 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 and received additional contributions from the European Union and Switzerland, but the amount remains short, Kearney said.

It said at the time that it was in need of $57 million. It will now seek contributions from new donors in an effort to fill the gap, he said.

Kearney said there were also concerns that the cuts would affect the local economy since residents used the cards to buy goods in local stores.

In the Gaza Strip, around 80 percent of the two million residents rely on international aid.

The strip has been under an Israeli blockade for more than a decade. Israel and Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.

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