Funding shortfall forces WFP to suspend vouchers for 1.7 million displaced Syrians

More than 1.7 million Syrians have taken refuge in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and even Egypt. The UN World Food Programme(WFP) has helped feed these refugees through a system of vouchers that can be used at local stores.
The WFP is facing a funding crisis that has forced the organization to suspend vouchers for hundreds of thousands of refugees already. The program has been in place since the Syrian conflict began back in March 2011. The WFP also provides food for internally displaced Syrians within Syria itself but outside Syria it has used the voucher programme. The program has injected about $800 million into the economies of host countries. The WFP has been unable to provide the $64 million needed to support Syrian refugees in December. In contrast, the Pentagon estimates the cost of military operations against the IS at between $210 and $300 million per month. Yet the international community as a whole is unable to provide less than a third of that to feed those displaced by military action in Syria. Lack of funding has also led WFP to cut rations provided to those internally displaced within Syria, numbering 4.25 million people.
 Ertharin Cousin, executive director of WFP, appealed to donors to honor their commitments and warned of the negative effects of suspension of the program on refugees: “[It] will endanger the health and safety of these refugees and will potentially cause further tensions, instability and insecurity in the neighbouring host countries. The suspension of WFP food assistance will be disastrous for many already suffering families.” Winter is coming on soon and many refugees in Lebanon and Jordan are living in tents, in poor hygienic conditions with many children lacking even shoes and warm clothes.
 Muhannad Hadi, regional emergency coordinator for the Syria crisis echoed Cousin's concerns: “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.” The WFP had warned three months ago that it was facing a whopping 89 percent funding shortfall. The WFP said in November that it needed $412.6 million over the next three months for almost 3 million Syrian refugees.
 The Guardian reports that as well as killing more the 200,000 there are 6.5 million Syrians displaced within the country and another more than 3 million outside Syria. The WFP has also cut rations of refugees in camps in Kenya as well for lack of funds. Some critics say that the WFP is simply using the suspension as a way to obtain more funding. In a telephone conversation Emilia Casella, a spokesperson for the WFP denied this and said: "We did foreshadow it. We did warn about it. We’ve exhausted all the options that we had. We weren’t crying wolf.”
 While the UN as a whole may be weak and impotent, programmes such as those run by the WFP are crucial in helping to alleviate the suffering of those who face horrible conditions through no fault of their own. The WFP deserves more support. If money can be found to finance military actions surely money can be found to mitigate the results of those actions on innocent refugees.


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