The World Food Programme (WFP) has announced severe reductions and suspensions in aid for Palestinian beneficiaries in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip, due to funding shortages brought on by major US aid cuts over the past year.
AFP reported on Sunday that Stephen Kearney, the organization’s director for the Palestinian territories, said some 27,000 Palestinians in the West Bank are no longer receiving aid through the UN program.
Additionally, another 165,000 Palestinians, including 110,000 in Gaza, have seen a 20 percent reduction in the aid they have received from WFP for years.
In 2018, the WFP provided assistance to 250,000 Palestinians in Gaza and 110,000 in the West Bank.
Kearney told journalists that the move came as a result of gradual funding cuts to the program over the years, with US cuts having the biggest effect.
In December, launched an emergency funding appeal saying they needed $57 million to maintain the current level of support to 360,000 people.
At the time, the group said they were “concerned that these cuts may have a devastating effect on the food security, livelihoods and welfare of the people it serves in Palestine.”
“WFP assistance goes to the poorest and most food-insecure communities who are classified as facing deep poverty,” the group said, adding that most of their recipients “struggle to live on less than US$1 per day and are unable to meet their basic food, clothing and housing needs.”
“The withdrawal and reduction of food entitlements may cause them to skip more meals, take on additional debts and withdraw their children from school. These measures risk aggravating the prevailing humanitarian crisis and instability in Gaza,” WFP said.
Despite an increase of contributions from the EU and Switzerland, the WFP came up short, and was forced to administer the aid cuts on January 1st.
The group has also expressed concerns that the cuts would have negative effects on the local Palestinian economy, as many recipients of WFP aid used the organization’s food cards to purchase goods from local stores.
Since he took office, US President Donald Trump has slashed some $500 million in US aid to Palestinians, leaving many organizations and aid programs strapped for cash.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), which provides essential services to some 5 million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, took the biggest hit when the US pulled all its funding — some $350 million annually — last year.
The cuts have threatened the closure of UNRWA schools and clinics, as well as the reduction in healthcare and food assistance programs.
The financial crisis of organizations like UNRWA and WFP will disproportionately affect Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, who make up more than 70% of the coastal enclave’s 2 million residents.
As a result of the 11-year Israeli blockade on the strip, Gaza’s residents suffer from some of the highest unemployment rates in the world, and nearly 80% of the population rely on international aid.