Stand for children in Gaza to demand retraction of suspension of humanitarian aid

Dozens of Palestinian children demonstrated today (Tuesday) in Gaza City to demand that the United Nations World Food Program redistribute the vouchers on which their families live.

Thousands of poor families in the Strip, which is inhabited by more than two million people and has been subject to a strict Israeli blockade since 2007, received text messages from the program at the beginning of last May stating that they had stopped obtaining the purchase voucher.

The messages of the World Food Program stated, “In light of the lack of resources that the program is currently facing, and in order to ensure the continuation of food assistance to the neediest and most vulnerable groups, we regret to inform you of a temporary cessation of food assistance for your family, starting from the first of June 2023.”

The children participating in the demonstration organized by the affected families in front of the (UNDP) headquarters in western Gaza raised Palestinian flags, colored balloons and banners with slogans written in Arabic and English (No to the threat to the food security of children in Gaza) and (We have the right to live in dignity).

Subhi al-Maghrabi, the media spokesman for the affected families on the sidelines of the demonstration, told Xinhua that the suspension of the voucher comes in light of the difficult economic and social conditions that the people of Gaza live in as a result of the blockade imposed on the Strip for 16 years and the repeated Israeli wars.

Al-Maghrabi stressed the need for the World Food Program to retract its decision, which is rejected by all segments of Palestinian society, stressing the need for the people of the Strip, especially its children, to live like the rest of the world’s peoples.

Those families get a voucher to buy their basic needs such as flour, sugar, rice, lentils, vegetable oil and other things from shops approved by the program, equivalent to the value of the voucher they get.

In turn, the child, Menna Mahmoud, while holding a Palestinian flag in her hand and a picture of a group of children in the other, told Xinhua, “We demand the United Nations to provide food, drink, safety and freedom for the people of Gaza.”

Menna Mahmoud, 13, added that the children came to deliver a message to the United Nations that stopping the purchase voucher means an increase in the economic and social conditions, calling for the redistribution and restoration of life for thousands of families.

And the World Food Program announced in mid-May that 200,000 people in the Palestinian territories will not receive aid by this June, warning that the program may have to completely suspend its operations by next August if it does not receive any international funding.

“We need to take difficult measures to ensure the continuation of vital food assistance to the neediest families, otherwise they will be at risk of starvation without food aid,” said WFP representative and country director in Palestine, Samer Abdel Jaber, in a statement posted on the program’s website.

He added, “These are painful choices, but we have already exhausted all options to utilize the funding we have, and we are grateful for the continuous support we have received from donors over the past years, but the needs are increasing and the resources can no longer meet these needs.”

According to the statement, the program urgently needs $51 million to maintain the necessary food and cash assistance in Palestine until the end of 2023.

He pointed out that the program’s aid represents nearly half of what people spend on food, and the cessation of aid will affect the fragile local economy, which will negatively affect the network of 300 local stores contracted by the program throughout Palestine.

The statement indicated that the program pumps about 3 million dollars every month into the Palestinian economy through its direct programs related to electronic cash transfers that allow people to buy wheat flour, vegetable oils and frozen meat.

Abdul Jaber called on government donors and the private sector to continue their support for the program during this difficult time to provide a lifeline to the Palestinians as well as build sustainable food solutions in Palestine and ensure that work does not stop.

Palestinian NGOs warned of the repercussions of stopping the program’s aid and its impact on the most vulnerable groups in the Strip, noting that more than 65% of its population suffer from food insecurity and 80% need and depend on aid.

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