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Voucher assistance in Palestine: More Than Just Food for food insecure Palestinians

Badria Totah
Badria receives around €9 credited onto her commodity voucher every month. The voucher enables her to buy a wide range of food items. © WFP

Badria, a widow of 65, shares her small house with her two married sons and their 20 children. The extended family, which relies on the small earnings of one of Badria’s sons, has become entirely dependent on external assistance since the loss of Badria’s husband during the 2008 Gaza war. “When I lost my husband I lost all kinds of support. My sons and relatives couldn’t help me financially as they could barely meet the needs of their own children,” she said. “When I was lucky, I could have tea and some bread for breakfast, and a small meal for lunch. Dinner was a luxury. I am not ashamed to say that the support I received from WFP has changed my life.”

Raphael Duboispean

Raphael Duboispean, External Relations Officer, Palestine, World Food Programme @WFP

Repeated conflict and ten years of a crippling blockade have created persistent food insecurity in the Gaza Strip, where 46 percent of the households are food insecure, with nearly one in three at a severe level. Families are barely able to recover from previous shocks before new setbacks drive them more deeply into poverty. Unemployment hits almost one in every two people, increasing to two in three people among young people.

Badria, who used to receive in-kind food assistance from WFP from 2008 until 2011, now uses WFP’s electronic food voucher which takes the form of a debit card where money is credited on a weekly basis. With this card, she can purchase and choose between 15 different nutritious locally-produced food items in one of WFP’s 75 participating shops in Gaza, several of which are located just a few metres from her house.

“I received dry food entitlements a few years ago. I had to line up to collect the food and pay transportation costs to bring it home, in the plain sight of my neighbours and relatives. Now that I receive vouchers, I no longer have to face this embarrassment and I can shop just like everybody else in the local shop,” she proudly emphasised.

Badria receives around €9 credited onto her voucher every month. The voucher enables her to buy a wide range of food items including bread, pulses, eggs, yogurts, cereals, milk, vegetables, olive oil and cheese for a healthier and more diversified diet. “These products are tasty, easy to cook and store,” she added. The voucher is insufficient to cover her full monthly food needs, but she manages to cope by skipping breakfast, or taking part in family meals. Sometimes, she can even rely on the slim financial support of her two sons, when available.

Badria participates in WFP’s nutrition awareness sessions in Al-Zaytoon, a district of Gaza, where she learns how to best use her voucher and prepare nutritious meals. Badria spares no effort to participate and walks to class, “I can’t afford to pay for transportation, but I learn so much during these lessons that I never regret it. As I suffer from diabetes, it is important for me to know more about the damaging effects of eating unhealthy food. Now, I refrain from drinking caffeine and adding sugar to my meals,” she said. Badria is one of the 4 850 women who has benefited from WFP’s nutrition awareness sessions since 2011.

The longstanding support of the European Union to WFP’s e-voucher interventions in Gaza has been instrumental in meeting the food needs, supporting the livelihoods and enhancing the resilience of poor and food-insecure Palestinians, like Badria, in the face of the increased socio-economic hardships. Through vouchers, WFP also aims at boosting the Palestinian economy and recovery of Gaza, using local retail shops for purchasing and distributing locally-produced commodities.

Since 2011, thanks to the support of the EU and other partners, WFP has injected more than $146 million (USD) in the Palestinian economy through vouchers, including $63 million in Gaza. This inclusive and encompassing approach has enabled WFP to significantly invest and render the Palestinian people and economy more resilient to the protracted crisis and other potential shocks. WFP’s voucher interventions has had a positive economic impact along the food value chain: it resulted in increased sales, investments and job creations in WFP participating shops, for dairy processors and cow farmers, and provided a market outlet for locally produced-goods.

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