Funding shortage leads to cuts in UN food aid to Palestinians
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Funding shortage leads to cuts in UN food aid to Palestinians

World Food Program drops 27,000 recipients from grocery voucher program in West Bank, assistance for 110,000 Gazans to be reduced by 20%

A Palestinian man loads flour bags onto a donkey cart outside the United Nations World Food Programme distribution center in the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip,Nov. 7, 2007 (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A Palestinian man loads flour bags onto a donkey cart outside the United Nations World Food Programme distribution center in the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip,Nov. 7, 2007 (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

The World Food Program 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 program 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.

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.

“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.

Palestinians receive their monthly food supplies from the World Food Programme in Gaza City, March 4, 2006 (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

“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% of the two million residents who live under Hamas rule rely on international aid.

The strip has been under an Egyptian-Israeli blockade for more than a decade, which Israel says is necessary to prevent Hamas from replenishing its weapons cache. Israel and the Hamas terror group have fought three wars since 2008. Hamas seeks to destroy Israel.

Palestinian schoolgirls pose for a group picture outside their classrooms at a school belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza City on January 22, 2018, during a visit by the UNRWA Commissioner General (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

US President Donald Trump has cut some $500 million in Palestinian aid, amid heavy criticism of the UN’s Palestinian welfare programs, leaving a number of the programs cash-strapped.

The US was by far the biggest contributor to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees and the extensive cuts dealt a massive blow to its already stretched finances.

It threatened the closure of UNRWA schools both in the West Bank and Gaza and elsewhere in the region, just weeks into the new academic year, as well as clinic closures and major job cuts.

Palestinian children stand next to bags of food aid provided by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on January 24, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)
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