UN food agency says it will have to cut back 60% of its activity in West Bank, Gaza

Citing ‘severe’ budget shortages, World Food Programme’s Palestinian director says 200,000 Palestinians will stop receiving assistance next month

A Palestinian loads a cart with food aid provided by the UN's World Food Programme, in the Gaza Strip's al-Shati refugee camp, May 15, 2019. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP/ File)
A Palestinian loads a cart with food aid provided by the UN's World Food Programme, in the Gaza Strip's al-Shati refugee camp, May 15, 2019. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP/ File)

An executive with the UN’s global food assistance program said Sunday that the agency will be forced to suspend its activities for the majority of recipients in Gaza and the West Bank starting next month.

Samer Abdeljaber, the director of the World Food Programme in the Palestinian territories, told Reuters that a “severe” shortage of funds means it cannot continue its operations as planned.

Abdeljaber told the news agency that it will suspend its food allocations to more than 200,000 Palestinians, who account for about 60 percent of its caseload, and only continue providing food and vouchers to around 140,000 people.

“In light of the severe funding shortages, WFP is forced to make painful choices to stretch the limited resources,” Abdeljaber said, and added that the program is aiming to continue assisting those at the highest risk level for food insecurity.

The cut is slated to begin in June, he said, noting that without any boost in funding, WFP’s operations will have to cease fully by August.

WFP made a similar announcement last year, but Germany stepped in to provide a $5.2 million grant in December to allow operations to continue.

A Palestinian worker unloads foodstuffs donated by the European Union through the World Food Programme and distributed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the West Bank village of Arrabeh near Jenin, December 26, 2007. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas/File)

The UN agency also made such announcements in 2018 and 2019, citing budgetary woes for the cutbacks.

According to the WFP, 63% of families in the Gaza Strip are food insecure. The agency says that in 2022, it provided assistance to 380,593 beneficiaries in the West Bank and Gaza, spending $175 million in total.

The WFP is facing funding shortfalls and soaring food prices, partly due to the ongoing war in Ukraine as well as soaring food costs. It has announced cutbacks due to budgetary shortages in a number of countries in recent months, including Chad, Burundi and Yemen.

AFP contributed to this report.

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