On 12 August 2014, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) launched the food voucher programme in the Old City of Hebron in collaboration with the WorldFood Programme (WFP). UNRWA Director of Operations in the West Bank Mr. Felipe Sanchez, Country Director and Representative of WFP Mr. Pablo Recalde, and a representative from the Hebron Governorate were in attendance.
The UNRWA food voucher programme, with the WFP as the implementing partner, meets the needs of food insecure refugees living in urban areas of the West Bank. The programme was designed as part of a wider UNRWA strategy. As of 1 August 2014, the programme is being implemented in 11 governorates and reaching approximately 27,910 refugee beneficiaries (4,420 families) using 65 local businesses.
UNRWA Director of Operations, Mr. Felipe Sanchez, said during the launch: “We are happy to launch the food voucher programme in cooperation with WFP, our constant partner. We are already receiving positive feedback from beneficiaries about this new program, which offers beneficiaries a variety of products to choose from in a more dignified manner as they don’t have to stand in long lines anymore to receive their food parcel. In addition, it will support local merchants and enhance the Palestinian economy.”
Mr. Pablo Recalde, the WFP Country Director, said: “WFP and UNWRA continue to further enhance their cooperation in Palestine. Electronic food vouchers ensure people have access to nutritious foods, while promoting the local economy by increasing sales of locally produced products.”
The programme is implemented using an electronic voucher system that allows the beneficiary to exchange the food vouchers against food commodities and choose from a list of food items at retail shops located close to their homes. The voucher values are estimated at 56 to 356 NIS a month per person and are used to purchase fresh dairy, pulses, canned fish, oil and other items assisting eligible beneficiaries to meet their most basic food needs.
One of the beneficiaries in Hebron said: “I have 10 children under my responsibility. This program provided them with more nutritious food ingredients and we can get through the monthwith the food voucher value. We are all very pleased.”
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 68 million.