Jerusalem – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed a contribution of CHF 4.5 million (approximately US$5 million) from the Government of Switzerland to provide cash assistance to vulnerable Palestinian families in the Gaza Strip.

The contribution, from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), will help WFP provide cash-based assistance to around 1,150 non-refugee families living across Gaza until 2022.

Under the scheme named Multi-Purpose Cash Assistance programme, each family receives a monthly credit on a magnetic card affording them the choice to spend it on the basic commodities they need the most at local markets.

“We are grateful for Switzerland’s generous support which will help us reach some of the poorest Palestinian families, who are forced to compromise their access to food amidst heightened hardships,” says Hildegard Lingnau, WFP Acting Country Director in Palestine. “Food security and poverty reduction are inseparable and require our collective effort to save and change the lives of the most vulnerable.”

The protracted multi-faceted humanitarian crisis in Gaza hits the poorest families the most, making them more dependent on external support for survival as the COVID-19 pandemic, continues to worsen an already dire situation.

With scarce resources available, an average family of five members living below the poverty line spends nearly half of its monthly resources on food. This has impacted their ability to meet other basic needs such as healthcare, clothing and housing. Many families resort to risky coping strategies, such as borrowing.

“With this pilot project we want to support vulnerable families in Gaza to cover their basic needs. We want to give these families the freedom to choose how to prioritize their spending and needs, ultimately increasing their dignity,“ says Marie Gilbrin, Director of Cooperation of SDC office in Gaza and the West Bank: “By increasing families’ purchasing power, we also hope to have a positive impact on the local market.“

WFP launched its first Multi-Purpose Cash Assistance in Gaza in October 2020 thanks to financial support from Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department (ECHO).

In 2021, WFP continues to provide regular food assistance to some 345,000 vulnerable non-refugee population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, mainly through food vouchers and in-kind food parcels. WFP has also provided cash-based assistance for up to 95,000 people affected by COVID-19 since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Switzerland is a long-standing partner of WFP assistance in Palestine. The latest funding brings Switzerland’s total contribution to WFP’s activities in Palestine to CHF 19.5 million (US$18 million) in the past five years.