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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 April 2019

Funding shortage leads to World Food Programme cuts for Palestinians

Since January 1, about 27,000 West Bank Palestinians are no longer receiving aid through the UN programme

A Palestinian demonstrator holds a United Nations flag during a protest against US funding cuts. Reuters
A Palestinian demonstrator holds a United Nations flag during a protest against US funding cuts. Reuters

The World Food Programme has suspended or reduced aid for some of its Palestinian beneficiaries in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip because of funding shortages.

Since January 1, about 27,000 West Bank Palestinians are no longer receiving aid through the UN programme, Stephen Kearney, the organisation’s director for the Palestinian territories, said.

Another 165,000 people, 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 four years, with American cuts having the biggest effect. US President Donald Trump has cut about $500 million (Dh1.83 billion) in Palestinian aid.

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In 2018, the WFP helped 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,” the 52-year-old mother said, 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 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 EU and Switzerland, but remains short of its target, Mr 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.

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

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

Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade for more than a decade. Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers fought three wars since 2008.

Updated: January 14, 2019 10:07 AM

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