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GENEVA, December, 1. /TASS/. - The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has announced it has been forced to suspend a critical program providing food vouchers to more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, due to a funding crisis.
Under this program, poor Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt have used vouchers to buy food in local shops. Without WFP vouchers, many families will go hungry. For refugees already struggling to survive the harsh winter, the consequences of halting this assistance will be devastating, the organization said in a press release.
“A suspension of WFP food assistance will endanger the health and safety of these refugees and will potentially cause further tensions, instability and insecurity in the neighbouring host countries,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, in an appeal to donors. “The suspension of WFP food assistance will be disastrous for many already suffering families."
Syrian refugees in camps and informal settlements throughout the region are ill prepared for yet another harsh winter, especially in Lebanon and Jordan, where many children are bare footed and without proper clothing. Many tents are drenched in mud and hygiene conditions are growing extremely precarious.
Cousin said that WFP's Syria emergency operations are now in critical need of funding. Many donor commitments remain unfulfilled. WFP requires a total of $64 million immediately to support Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries during the month of December.
If new funding arrives in December, WFP will immediately resume assistance for refugees who use electronic vouchers to buy food in local shops. Since the start of this operation, WFP’s voucher program has injected about $800 million dollars into the economies of refugee hosting countries which border Syria.
"We are very concerned about the negative impact these cuts will have on the refugees as well as the countries which host them. These countries have shouldered a heavy burden throughout this crisis," said Muhannad Hadi, WFP Regional Emergency Coordinator for the Syria Crisis.
Since the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011, WFP has succeeded, despite fighting and problems of access, in meeting the food needs of millions of displaced people inside Syria and up to 1.8 million refugees in the neighbouring countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.
This was only possible because of long-term donor funding for WFP operations and cooperation between WFP staff, partner organizations and host governments in the region. It is critical that this funding and cooperation continue, WFP said.