WFP avoids suspension of food assistance for Syrian refugees, thanks to U.S. contribution

July 31, 2015 (REFERRING TO THE NATIONAL NEWS AGENCY – LEBANON) Concerned that it might have to suspend food assistance for nearly half a million refugees in Jordan, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today that it will proceed with assistance next month, albeit at a reduced level, thanks to a substantial contribution from the United States of America.

“This timely contribution has helped us avoid major cuts, but unless other donors step up to the plate, it will be only a matter of months before we face the same situation again,” said Muhannad Hadi, WFP Regional Director for the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. “Even though this is a large contribution, the sad truth is that it will only last a couple of months. Without the support of the entire donor community, deeper cuts are inevitable.”

The US$65 million dollar contribution has allowed the food agency to continue assistance in August through food vouchers, or “e-cards,” for 440,000 refugees living outside of camps in Jordan. The most vulnerable refugees will receive US$14 per person this month – half of the entitlement they originally received – while the remaining refugees, who are slightly better off, will receive only US$7 each.

“It is devastating to hear a mother saying she ties scarves around her children’s bellies so they don’t wake up feeling hungry,” Hadi added. “But these heartbreaking stories will continue if humanitarian assistance comes to a halt. The entire international community must help us uphold our humanitarian duty to keep refugees from going hungry.”

Meanwhile, the 95,000 refugees living in refugee camps in Jordan will continue to receive assistance at the full value of US$28 per person per month. In Lebanon, WFP will continue providing refugees with US$13.5 per month, half of their initial entitlement.

US$47 million of the American contribution will be used to support WFP’s food voucher operations in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, while the remaining US$18.5 million will be channelled towards WFP’s programme inside Syria that supports some four million displaced people every month. To date, the U.S. has contributed more than US$1.2 billion to WFP for its response to the Syria crisis.

While some positive indications have been received from other donors, WFP’s regional refugee operation is severely underfunded and immediately needs US$168 million to continue to support desperate refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and Iraq through October.

Since the beginning of the year, WFP has made concerted efforts to prioritize available funds so that assistance to families most in need continues. Limited resources, however, forced WFP already to reduce the assistance to 1.6 million Syrian refugees in the five countries.

WFP is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from governments, companies and individuals. In 2014, WFP globally received US$5.38 billion in contributions – 27 percent higher than in 2013. This was in response to an unprecedented number of emergencies in places such as Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, and the West African countries affected by Ebola. However needs are still rising worldwide, outpacing the available funding.