The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has launched a food voucher operation, the first of its kind in the Middle East, to assist some 30,000 people in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). The 12-month voucher operation began yesterday in urban areas of the West Bank, where the price of basic food commodities such as wheat flour, sugar, rice, oil, pulses and milk increased by almost 70 percent in 2008. Families will receive eight vouchers per month, with a monthly value of NIS200 (US$50). "The recent fall in global food prices has not yet translated into lower prices in local markets; Palestinian families are now spending about 60 percent of their income on food," said Christine van Nieuwenhuyse, WFP Country Director in the oPt in a press release. She added that the project would improve people's access to food, while at the same time providing a financial stimulus to the local economy.