WFP to assist poorest Iraqi refugees fleeing into Syria

Published on 13 March 2007

WFP has appealed for donations for a new operation to provide food assistance for tens of thousands of the poorest Iraqi refugees who are now in Syria after fleeing escalating violence in their own country.

WFP has appealed for donations for a new operation to provide food assistance for tens of thousands of the poorest Iraqi refugees who are now in Syria after fleeing escalating violence in their own country.

Many of these are people who don’t have the financial reserves to meet the daily needs of their families, including the schooling of their children

Pippa Bradford, WFP Country Representative in Syria

An estimated 1.8 million Iraqi refugees are currently scattered around the Middle East, with Syria hosting nearly one million of them.

In consultation with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), which is monitoring the refugees, WFP plans to provide assistance for up to 30,000 Iraqis unable to afford their basic food needs.

Impoverished

Unlike the majority of Iraqi refugees who have had support from extended families or savings, they are impoverished and dependent on outside aid.

Up to mid-2006, many Iraqi refugees entering Syria had adequate resources to cover their needs. However, as targeted violence continues in Iraq, the number of those fleeing and arriving unable to sustain themselves is rapidly increasing.

“Those leaving Iraq are doing so in greater haste and either have had no time to sell their belongings, or cannot find buyers,” said Pippa Bradford, WFP Country Representative in Syria.

Less cash

“As a result, people arrive in Syria with far less cash, only to find there are fewer opportunities to cope than for those who came before them,” she said.

Most of the extremely poor refugees are situated in suburbs around Damascus as well as near Aleppo, Al-Qameshly and Al-Hasaka near the north-eastern parts of the country.

“Many of these are people who don’t have the financial reserves to meet the daily needs of their families, including the schooling of their children.

Illegal work

And without work permits, increased competition has made the search for illegal low paid work more difficult and exploitation more common,” Bradford added.

WFP is already assisting almost 7,000 people and will increase the number of those benefiting from food aid by 2,500 every month until the end of the year, using a screening system run by UNHCR.

Among the beneficiaries are 650 Palestinian refugees living in dire conditions in two locations along the Syria-Iraq border. WFP is appealing to donors to provide US$1.7 million to purchase and distribute over 2,800 metric tons of rice, vegetable oil and pulses up to the end of the year.

“While the Government, with UNHCR’s support, has opened the doors of their schools and health care centres to allow the refugees to access social services, those who are most vulnerable are still unable to provide themselves with the basics, including food,” said Bradford.