by Kirstie Campbell
NABLUS, Occupied Palestinian Territory – The Tunisian superstar walked through the bustling market in the old city of Nablus to the shop where Amal Bashir, a 45-year-old mother of five, regularly exchanges her WFP food voucher for milk, eggs and cheese.
“I had been extremely embarrassed over the past year as I couldn’t afford to buy the food my children need. I have been forced to feed my children on bread and oil with no protein which has really affected their health,” Amal told Hend, as her five-year-old daughter looked on.
Hend Sabry, 29, studied law and is in fact a syndicated lawyer. She says acting is only a hobby. Her popularity peaked across the Arabic-speaking world after starring in a popular 2008 television series. She is proud of her involvement with WFP. “I am honoured to lend my voice to improve the lives of others. Celebrities can do a lot to raise awareness about human suffering around the world,” she says.
WFP's celebrity partner Hend Sabry was in Nablus to experience for herself the life of a WFP beneficiary in the West Bank. Spending a whole day with Amal, she witnessed her daily toil and, at the same time, she was able to gauge the impact of a ground-breaking WFP voucher scheme.
Milk and eggs
“The voucher has brought me back to the market and I am able to buy milk, eggs and cheese -- items which otherwise I could not afford. I really hope this programme doesn’t stop as I don’t know what I will do without it,” she said.
Amal's husband continues to do his best to meet the family’s daily needs in difficult economic circumstances, going around on his cart selling vegetables. But it’s never quite enough. That's why the family was recently enrolled in the urban voucher programme; before that they received no assistance at all.
Sense of dignity
“In the West Bank the main problem for people is money to buy food -- rather than food availability," said Hend, who was visiting the occupied Palestinian territory for the first time and had been in Ramallah for two days before arriving in Nablus. "The voucher programme really tackles this issue well, restoring a basic sense of dignity and allowing them to spend their money on other things they really need like medicines or school."
The voucher programme started in the West Bank last April as a pilot project targeting poor individuals living in urban areas. The scheme is designed to provide nutritional support to the poorest families and at the same time to promote local businesses and local producers. The project now supports some 31,000 people in the West Bank and 15,000 people in the Gaza Strip.