WASHINGTON, July 27, 2020 — The World Bank today approved a US$30 million grant for cash support and short-term employment opportunities to vulnerable populations in the West Bank affected by COVID-19. The West Bank Emergency Social Protection COVID-19 Response Project will target both the new poor who lost their incomes as a result of the pandemic and families that have lived in poverty already prior to the COVID-19 outbreak but are now struggling even more.
"The COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an unprecedented challenge with very severe socio-economic consequences in an already struggling Palestinian economy," said Kanthan Shankar, World Bank Country Director for 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."
In the West Bank, loss of income has resulted mainly from job losses, exacerbating the stubbornly high unemployment rates that existed even before the crisis. Informal workers, who account for about 60% 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. The new project is designed to step up efforts to protect many new poor households from being pushed into poverty as well as the already poor families who are pushed further below the poverty line.
The new project will build on efforts of past and ongoing projects, making use of their proven platforms to accurately target the poor and vulnerable households. US$20 million for emergency cash transfer will benefit a total of 89,400 poor households affected by the COVID-19 crisis based on the well-targeted and scalable program of the ongoing Cash Transfer Project, including 68,000 newly registered households. In addition, the new project will finance the funding gap for 21,400 households already registered 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 US$8 million allocated for the cash for work program will build on a delivery platform already developed in Gaza that involves providing 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% 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.
Capacity building is another key activity supported by the project, which will help the West Bank build resilience to mitigate the impact of future shocks, including those related to climate change.