Gaza – In early May, Aisha Abu Obeid received a message on her mobile phone that hit her like a bolt from the blue. The monthly food stamps she received from the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) will stop next month, it is claimed.
“I feel like my soul is leaving me,” said the mother of seven, whose husband is unemployed. “This voucher is used to cover my family’s basic monthly food needs. I look forward to it at the beginning of each month.”
For a year and a half, Aisha’s family has been receiving a food voucher worth US$108 per month from the World Food Programme, covering their basic needs for food and vegetables. On 11 May, the World Food Program announced in a statement that 200,000 people — nearly 60 percent of Palestinian beneficiaries — would no longer receive food assistance by June due to severe funding shortfalls.
The funding crunch has forced the World Food Program to cut cash assistance by about 20% this month. By August, if funds are not received, the agency will be forced to suspend operations in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Samer Abdeljaber, World Food Program Representative and Country Director for Palestine, told Al Jazeera. “We have no choice but to use our limited resources to ensure the needs of the most vulnerable families are met. Without food assistance, they will go hungry.”
He said the World Food Program urgently needed $51 million to maintain aid to Palestine until the end of the year. For families like Aisha, this kind of help is a lifeline for their survival amid the never-ending storm of crises linked to Israel’s illegal occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Aisha’s house was destroyed in the latest escalation in the Gaza Strip, days after receiving an alert from the World Food Program on her mobile phone. On the afternoon of May 13, she was sitting with her children when she heard screams outside the house asking neighbors to evacuate the house.
“I was so scared and went out to watch our relatives leave their homes. They told me there had been a bomb warning for the house across from us,” she recalls. “I immediately summoned my children and we fled to relatives.”
After the house was bombed, Aisha, her husband and their children returned home to find the house largely in ruins.
“The world is getting smaller”
“I feel very sad,” Aisha said, with tears in her eyes. “I feel like the world is shrinking before us. We have no source of income, we lost food stamps that barely covered my children’s food needs…and now we are losing our houses.”
Over the course of their 14-year marriage, Aisha said what upset her the most was her inability to even plan for her children’s future. “We’re here every day trying to make a living. There’s no room for the future.”
“Where are we going with this life,” she asked, her voice angry.
Aisha is a history graduate and her husband Suliman has a degree in counseling psychology. But finding a good job in Gaza is almost as difficult as finding affordable food for the family. Unemployment is 45.3 percent, and two-thirds of the population cannot afford food.
“Young people and graduates don’t have job opportunities,” said Suliman, 37, who is now trying to find part-time work in construction, carpentry or moving. “As long as there is a chance.”
“I hope this threatening decision will be considered,” Aisha said. “When I think about how I’m going to feed my seven kids, it almost drives me crazy.”
Aisha and her family are currently living in the rented house prior to renovations. “We left the house with only our clothes. We lost all our furniture and belongings,” Suliman said.
“Welcome to life in Gaza,” he said. “When hunger, poverty and war go hand in hand.”
The World Food Program echoed the sentiment in its May statement, which said, “Vulnerable households in Gaza and the West Bank are already struggling as the combined effects of growing insecurity, a deteriorating economy and rising costs of living are exacerbating food insecurity. Safety.”
It said 1.84 million Palestinians, or 35 percent of the population, did not have enough to eat.
“We urge government donors and the private sector to continue supporting WFP during this difficult time,” Abdeljaber said. “The continued support of our donors has enabled us to provide a lifeline to Palestinians and build sustainable food solutions in Palestine. Now more than ever, we need to ensure that work doesn’t stop.”
“Day of Mourning”
In a dilapidated house in the Jabalia camp in the northern Gaza Strip, Samah al-Qanou is still receiving “shocking” messages informing her that her monthly food stamps have been cut off.
“I have received this voucher for 10 years. It has eased my monthly burden of providing basic food,” said al-Qanou, 45, who lives with her ailing husband, 66, and four children .
She waits impatiently for coupons worth about $75 to arrive at the beginning of each month. She went to the supermarket next to her house early in the morning to cash it out. “It is a day of mourning for me to receive this letter,” she told Al Jazeera. “I cried all day and my blood pressure skyrocketed.”
Al-Qanou said she could not afford to pay for her children’s college education “despite their intelligence.” Without a college education, the kids earn less than $100 a month.
“At least with the vouchers, the minimum basic needs of my family can be met,” she said, pointing to the bucket of flour that was about to run out. “But what am I going to do today? How will I support my family? “
“Sometimes I think it would be better if we were all dead.”