AMMAN – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Jordan has completed its first distribution of food vouchers to all Syrian refugees living in Zaatari camp, now home to more than 100,000 people, allowing refugees for the first time to buy the food of their choice from designated shops inside the camp.
Refugees have begun shopping with vouchers in dedicated shops set up in the camp by local community organisations, buying a wide range of food, including fresh produce that is not normally included in food rations. Any profit made is used to support the local organisations’ development and charitable activities in the Jordanian communities surrounding the camp.
“I haven’t had eggs for a long time,” said Sawsan, a mother of five children, from Dara’a, who fled the conflict in Syria over a year ago. “I can now buy milk and cheese,” she added as she entered one of the shops, crowded with Syrian refugees eager to use their new vouchers.
For an introductory period refugees will receive a voucher in addition to the regular WFP monthly ration of bulgur wheat, pasta, rice, lentils, sugar and salt. “We are introducing the food vouchers in Zaatari camp gradually, to give the refugees the time to familiarize themselves with this new form of assistance. Over the coming weeks, we will start to increase the value of the voucher while reducing the food commodities until the camp is assisted entirely through food vouchers,” said Jonathan Campbell, WFP Emergency Coordinator in Jordan.
WFP has been distributing over 2,000 metric tons of food in Zaatari camp each month. WFP distributes, on average, half a million portions of fresh bread daily in the camp.
“Zaatari camp is becoming less of a camp and more like a city. We want to ensure that refugees have access to shops near them and to a variety of food products,” said Campbell. “By involving Jordanian community organisations to set up the shops and ensuring supplies are sourced from local traders, the voucher system also helps to support the towns and villages around the camp and boost the local economy.”
Additional shops including two new supermarkets are also planned to open in Zaatari in the coming weeks.
The voucher system is already functioning outside the camp, benefiting refugees living in communities in all 12 governorates of Jordan. In August, WFP reached more than 300,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan through food vouchers, injecting over US$11 million into the Jordanian economy.
WFP also uses food vouchers to assist Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Through the voucher system the local economies of these countries have received over US$153 million since the beginning of 2013.
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