Gaza’s Abject Poor Most Affected by UNRWA Amendments to its Food Basket Program
Date: 21 February 2021
Time: 11:10 GMT
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) announced on Saturday, 20 February 2021, cancelling the “yellow voucher – double portions food basket” for the abject poor, and replacing it with a unified food basket system for all beneficiary refugees in the Gaza Strip.
UNRWA Media Advisor, Adnan Abu Hasna, stated that the unified food basket program will be in effect starting Sunday, 21 February 2021. He added that this system will offer fair distribution and will allow UNRWA to increase food basket beneficiaries by 60,000 (1 million and 200 thousand beneficiaries instead of 1 million and 140 current beneficiary refugees).
According to PCHR’s follow-up, the cancelled food basket was disbursed to abject poor refugee families -at least 770,000 refugees in the Gaza Strip benefited from it- and it included at least double the portions of food supplies offered in the current unified food basket. UNRWA had developed this classification based on the following criteria: age and gender of breadwinner; family size; any chronic diseases or disabilities among family members. This Classification has been in place for several years and is cancelled as of today.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights believes that the unified food basket system will harm thousands of refugees; both those who received the “yellow voucher” and those who were removed from the beneficiaries list (those with a guaranteed and stable income). PCHR asserts that this new system may carry grave consequences on poor refugees who live under harsh circumstances in refugee camps with high poverty and unemployment rates, which grew further under the coronavirus pandemic as many refugees became unable to meet their basic needs.
Additionally, PCHR recommends that the increase in the number of family recipients of UNRWA food baskets should not be at the cost of the abject poor and should not be compensated for by suspending aid to refugees with a stable but limited income, who were amongst the most affected by the pandemic. Even more, PCHR suggests that UNRWA expands its program and beneficiaries, and increase the quantity and quality of food baskets offered to refugees, particularly that reducing this service will have consequences on other rights and needs to members of the family, such as the right to receive medical care and children’s right to education.
Hereby, PCHR demands UNRWA reverse its decision to cancel the “yellow voucher- double portioned food basket,” and calls upon it to commit to its role towards Palestinian refugees as per its mandate in the 1949 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 302. PCHR also calls upon the international community to uphold its responsibilities towards Palestinian refugees and to support UNRWA budget to ensure proper delivery of its programs, particularly food assistance.