WFP vouchers: Going beyond food assistance in Gaza
Each month, the World Food Programme (WFP) voucher food assistance inject more than US$3 million of additional income into the local economy.
With food insecurity hitting two-thirds of the population, the World Food Programme (WFP) is in the front-line to provide critical assistance to 245,000 people of the most vulnerable non-refugee population. Eighty-five percent of WFP-assisted beneficiaries receive their monthly food entitlements via an electronic food card onto which US$10 are credited. The card gives them access to locally-made products available in a network of 83 retail shops.
The collapse of the socio-economic fabric in Gaza has resulted in an unprecedented humanitarian crisis that has taken a devastating toll on the poorest. Gazan residents, who suffer the pervasive consequences of growing restrictions to basic social services and a shrinking job market, have exhausted almost of all their resources in trying to cope with increased hardships.
The benefits of WFP food assistance go beyond the immediate impact on people’s ability to meet their pressing food needs. Using vouchers has had positive spill-over effects on job creation and investment in the agro-industrial sector.
Shop-owners, dairy producers, small-scale food production associations and cow farmers are benefiting from additional market outlets and investing in their resilience with the support of WFP.
Get to know them!
Food assistance amidst mounting hardships
Aida, 42, is a single mother of nine who lives in Gaza’a Khan Younis. Without source of income nor job opportunities. Just feeding her children has always been a day-to-day struggle for the young mother. With the sharp degradation in people’s purchasing power and living conditions, WFP’s assistance has become more of a lifeline for her and hundreds of thousands of families who have been falling in a trap of rising poverty, hunger and debt.
WFP food e-card enables Aida to buy a wide range of nutritious and locally-made products through a vast network of retail shops across Gaza. Dairy products, eggs, fresh vegetables and dates are her children’s favourites.
Around twenty percent of the families assisted by WFP in Gaza are female headed families. They are either divorced, widowed or abandoned. Women like her are among the most vulnerable and marginalised in Gaza. They are also impacted the most by the humanitarian and economic crises that are prevailing in the impoverished Palestinian enclave.
Investing in nutrition
Fatiya, 30, has three children and has greatly benefited from WFP’s health and nutrition awareness sessions in Khan Younis. Along with 8,000 other women this year, she attended interactive presentations and was trained on best nutritional practices and healthy eating habits.
Through these classes Fatiya learned how to make the best use of her food voucher to cook healthy diversified meals with vegetables, fish, lentils, dates and yoghurt. With an improved diet, her baby Yasmine no longer suffers from under-nutrition and micro-nutrient deficiencies.
The training also included life-skills, gender equality and women’s empowerment sessions aiming to enhance their resilience in the face of deprivation, psychological trauma, and other forms of anxieties driven by patriarchal norms. These learning experiences have gone beyond the scope of meal preparation. Some female participants were inspired to resume their studies or set up their own businesses.
Boosting local markets
Salama, 44, is one of the 83 shop-owners handling WFP’s food voucher assistance. Since he joined the programme in 2012, his sales have tripled. This additional income meant he can invest in his business; he has expanded his shop, hired two more workers, diversified his suppliers base to offer his customers wider choice and better prices. Salama has even carved up enough money to install a solar energy system to cut down his energy costs and keep his refrigeration systems running despite Gaza’s recurrent power outages.
“I can keep my dairy products fresh 24/7 and maintain the highest quality standards for my clients,” says Salama proudly.
With the collapse of the Gazan economy, WFP food vouchers have been essential in keeping small businesses, like Salama’s, alive.
Fostering local entrepreneurship
Tahani, 48, set up her own small business in 1991, producing and selling Za’atar — an aromatic spice blend — to families and friends. Years later, the Khan Younis entrepreneur expanded to four shops near her home in the late. Since 2014 and her inclusion as a retailer in the WFP’s food voucher programme, her small venture grew; she moved to bigger premises, bought new machines, doubled production and diversified into date-based products, pastries and samosas.
She is even helping others at a time when unemployment is rampant. Tahani has hired five female workers on a full-time basis, and her monthly revenues have been multiplied by ten-fold allowing her to send her four children to university. Her products, which recently received the ISO quality certification, can now be purchased in 15 retail shops.
With the economic and liquidity crises affecting Gaza, Tahani has become more reliant on WFP voucher programme. “The situation in Gaza is deteriorating every day. To keep my business afloat without external support, my ambition is to export my products to the West Bank”.
Supporting Gaza’s productive base
Arif, 50, owns Al Jaleel dairy company. His factory, based in Deir-El Balah, produces yoghurts and cheese which are then sold in more than 1,000 retail shops across all Gaza governorates. Every day, the firm collects 1,500 litres of milk from 11 farmers and produces half a ton of dairy products. This is twice as much as four years ago when the partnership with WFP started. With guaranteed revenue, he felt confident to re-invest. He has expanded his factory, purchased new equipment, installed a lab, and hired eight additional full-time workers.
Today, 70 percent of his produce is sold to the 83 WFP-contracted shops. “Without the WFP support, I would have no choice but to significantly scale-down,” says Arif.
Empowering small-scale farmers
Mustafa, 62, has been a farmer in Raffah since his early 20’s. Since the blockade and the year-on-year deterioration of the economic situation in Gaza, Al Jaleel dairy company has been his only customer. The veteran greatly benefited from the growth of Arif’s business, with his herd growing from 35 to 60 cows and daily milk production jumping from 450 to 800 litres.
His profits also rose but to a lesser extent as he now sells his milk at a reduced-price — from 2 to 1.5 New Israeli Shekels per litre — as people’s purchasing power has sunk.
WFP outook in 2019
In 2018, WFP has been able to maintain its assistance thanks to the support of contributing donors, including Government partners providing flexible or ‘multilateral’ resources and directly supporting WFP’s Immediate Response Account. These funds account for almost half of contributions received and have been of critical importance to keep WFP operations running throughout the year in both Gaza and the West Bank. Looking into 2019, insufficient funding would have devastating consequences on even more people than those we serve directly.