EAST JERUSALEM – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today that by next month 200,000 people – 60 percent of the people it assists in Palestine – will no longer be receiving assistance due to a severe funding shortage. By August, WFP will be forced to completely suspend operations in the West Bank and Gaza if no funding is received.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures. We have no option but to stretch the limited resources we have to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable families are met. They will go hungry without food assistance,” said Samer Abdeljaber, WFP Representative and Country Director in Palestine. “These are difficult choices, but we have already exhausted all options to stretch the funding that we have. We are grateful for the constant support that we received from donors over the years, but needs are growing, and resources are not meeting these needs.”
This month, the funding crunch forced WFP to reduce the value of its cash assistance by around 20 percent, to US$10.3 per person. WFP urgently needs US$51 million to maintain its life-saving food and cash assistance in Palestine until the end of the year.
Vulnerable families in Gaza and the West Bank have been pushed to the limits by the combined effects of growing insecurity, a deteriorating economy, and the rising cost of living that is driving food insecurity up. Due to the steep rise in food prices and the constant instability, even the most basic needs have become unattainable leaving 1.84 million Palestinians – 35 percent of the population – food insecure.
The situation is particularly dire in Gaza, where unemployment rates stand at 45.3 percent and two out of every three people struggle to afford their next meal.
Over the past year, most families have been unable to cope in the face of global food price increases, accelerated by the conflict in Ukraine. In 2022, food prices in Palestine reached their highest in six years.
“This past year has been a nightmare for thousands of poorer Palestinian families who have been pushed to their absolute limit,” said Abdeljaber. “The average cost of a family’s food needs increased by 20 percent. For Palestinians with low purchasing power, every percentage point increase in prices leaves them unable to meet the most basic food needs.”
WFP’s assistance accounts for an average of nearly half what people spend on food. The loss of assistance will also take its toll on the fragile local economy impacting a network of 300 local shops contracted by WFP across Palestine. Each month, WFP injects around US$3 million into the Palestinian economy through its direct programmes related to electronic cash transfers that allow people to buy wheat flour, vegetable oil, and frozen meat. Through its cash-based transfers platform, WFP also facilitates the transfer of US$10 million every month to vulnerable families on behalf of humanitarian and development partners. “We urge government donors and the private sector to continue their support to WFP during this difficult time,” said Abdeljaber. “Continued donor support has allowed us to provide a lifeline to Palestinians as well as build sustainable food solutions in Palestine. We need now, more than ever, to ensure that work does not stop.”