HEBRON -- WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran kicked off a three-day visit to the Middle East on Monday by visiting shops in the West Bank participating in WFP’s electronic voucher programmes.
WFP has been providing the most vulnerable Palestinians with ‘digital food’ through an electronic voucher system that allows people to redeem their electronic coupons through a swipe card in selected shops. This allows for a more diversified range of food items. Beneficiaries are able to pick up fresh food such as milk and eggs – items that cannot be included in the traditional food basket.
Food vouchers allow WFP to address hunger in situations where food is available but people are unable to afford it. At the same time, they provide an injection of money into the local economy, thereby supporting local producers.
Speaking to a group of women in the shop in Hebron, Sheeran learnt first hand the challenges they face in providing their families with the proper nutrition amidst rising food prices in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Nisreen, a 25-year-old widow, is a mother of three young children and has been prioritized by WFP to receive food assistance through the electronic voucher programme. “These vouchers don't just provide me with the food assistance that my children are so dependent. They also preserve my dignity,” said Nisreen. “I come here and I shop for the items I need at the time that I need them -- and without people knowing that I am getting food assistance.”
The programme currently assists 32,000 people in the West Bank and 15,145 people in the Gaza Strip.
“These cards are a symbol of hope in Hebron in the occupied Palestinian territory. They offer a win-win situation,” said Sheeran. "The child wins, most importantly, because she gets the nutrients and vitamins that she needs from the nine selected food items on the card. The shop-owner wins because people buy these food items from the shop. And all these products have to be locally procured so the dairy farmers and the local millers all win, creating jobs and opportunity here."
"We really need to continue and we are sending the message that this type of e-vouchers – digital food – can help empower the economy here in the occupied Palestinian territory."