The relief and social services social safety-net programme is the only programme that caters to the needs of the most vulnerable Palestine refugees by delivering food aid and cash subsidies on a regular basis.
In 2010, around 275,000 Palestine refugees, from over 73,000 families, benefited from the programme.
The social safety-net delivers food from 58 fixed and 126 mobile distribution points.
Supported by more than 280 social workers, the programme:
- provides basic food supplies and cash subsidies to the most vulnerable Palestine refugees considered to be caught in a cycle of abject poverty
- provides selective cash assistance, such as one-off cash grants or basic household items, in the instance of fire, flood, sudden death of a family breadwinner or other family emergency
- ensures that Palestine refugee families have adequate shelter.
Millennium Development Goals
These interventions, and UNRWA’s integrated approach to poverty alleviation, are part of the Agency’s greater strategy to help achieve the first Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.
Eligibility and reform
Those eligible for assistance are assessed based on identification of their poverty status using a poverty-based approach, which is both family- and country-specific, and depends on the local socio-economic context in each country.
This approach was adopted in 2008 as part of a series of reforms to ensure that the 'poorest of the poor’ could be accurately identified and benefit. Assistance includes a standard food basket and basic cash subsidy, and also offered training opportunities and skills development to help them break out of the poverty cycle.
Extra subsidies are distributed to families living below the poverty line to cover the poverty gap. These family income supplements give vulnerable families the flexibility to make purchases according to their primary needs.
UNRWA’s mass ration distributions began in 1950 and included more than ten basic items, such as flour, rice, cheese and soap. As contributions allowed, clothing, shoes, bedding and domestic items were added.
Over time, the rations diminished due to funding shortfalls and a growing awareness that not all refugees needed ration support.
The Agency’s special hardship case programme (SHC) was introduced in 1978 to provide assistance to the neediest refugee families. In 1982, the mass distribution of food rations by UNRWA to the majority of refugees was stopped, except in Lebanon, where it continued until 1984.
By the mid 1980s, the SHC programme was the only one providing food rations to low-income refugees. In 1997, changes were introduced and food aid it became a quarterly food package combined with a cash subsidy.
In 2010, the social safety net programme:
- distributed $10.9 million in cash subsidies to refugees
- distributed over US$22.5 million in food
- delivered more than one million food parcels
- enrolled 993 students from families in hardship at vocational training centres or education science facilities.
Since the first family income supplement (FIS) distribution in June 2008, we were able to furnish extra cash totalling US$ 28.7 million in the five fields.
As a result, we provided almost 134,700 individuals living below the abject poverty line (i.e. the food insecure) with additional cash (FIS) to cover their poverty gap through the support of the European Union.