World Bank Approves $30 Million for Palestinian COVID-19 Response

As part of the grant, the World Bank will provide a $20-million emergency cash fund to nearly 90,000 households affected by the coronavirus crisis

Jack Khoury
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Palestinian laborers, who were not able to cross into Israel for work, stand by a fence near an Israeli checkpoint that was closed, near Hebron, West Bank, June 29, 2020
Palestinian laborers, who were not able to cross into Israel for work, stand by a fence near an Israeli checkpoint that was closed, near Hebron, West Bank, June 29, 2020Credit: MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA/Reuters
Jack Khoury

The World Bank approved on Monday a $30 million grant for short term cash aid and the creation of employment opportunities for vulnerable Palestinians in the West Bank who have been impacted by the coronavirus crisis.

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The West Bank Emergency Social Protection COVID-19 Response Project will focus on those who have lost their income as a result of the pandemic, as well as families who lived in poverty before the crisis began, and who are now in a worse situation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an unprecedented challenge with very severe socio-economic consequences in an already struggling Palestinian economy,” said Kanthan Shankar, the World Bank director for the West Bank and Gaza.

“Social protection becomes a priority for the World Bank in the context of increased poverty and job losses. The new project aims to reduce the impact of the shock on workers and households through income protection and provides alternative employment for those out of work,” said Shankar in a World Bank statement on Monday.

The loss of income in the West Bank is mostly the result of job losses, which have exacerbated the stubbornly high unemployment rates that existed even before the crisis, said a statement by the World Bank. “Informal workers, who account for about 60 percent of the workforce, are being particularly impacted by the lockdown measures. These informal workers are disproportionally concentrated in poor and near-poor households and have no access to formal social protection schemes.”

This new project is designed to step up efforts to protect many newly poor households from being pushed into poverty, as well those families which were already poor and have been pushed further below the poverty line. The World Bank will provide a $20 million emergency cash fund to 89,400 households affected by the crisis, based on an existing program in the West Bank. The grant scheme will include 68,000 new households.

The new project will also finance the funding gap for 21,400 households already registered with the program, to ensure that beneficiaries will be able to cover their basic needs and won’t fall further into poverty.

“This has become urgent as the Palestinian Authority has been unable to contribute its payment share of the cash transfer project for the second quarter of 2020 due to the current fiscal crisis,” the World Bank said.

Another $8 million will be allocated for cash grants for work program based on an already existing platform in the Gaza Strip which will be extended to the West Bank. The platform provides “Short-term employment opportunities through NGOs in sectors with a high return in social services.” The proposed cash for work intervention in the West Bank will use similar methods and will employ more than 3,000 beneficiaries, of which at least 50 percent will be women.

“The combination of emergency financial relief and temporary jobs in social services in the West Bank will not only help ensure a dignified life, but will also continue to allow for investment in human capital despite the challenging conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Friederike Uta Rother, World Bank senior social protection specialist and project task team leader.

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