BEIRUT – The Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, completed a visit to Lebanon today on the first stop of a three-day regional trip to see the increasing humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.
In her first official visit to the Middle East since she assumed the office of the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Cousin held talks in the morning with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati on the situation and challenges facing Lebanon and the humanitarian response from WFP and partners.
Cousin hailed the efforts of the Lebanese Government in supporting Syrian refugees in the country. “We are grateful for the generosity of the Lebanese people and their government for keeping an open door policy to displaced Syrians in search of safety and for facilitating WFP’s work in Lebanon to assist Syrian refugees,” said Cousin.
In the afternoon, Cousin travelled to the Bekaa Valley and visited a distribution centre where refugees receive WFP food vouchers. She went to a grocery shop in the town of Britel in Baalbek and met Syrian families redeeming their vouchers.
Cousin also visited a Syrian family in their temporary accommodation in Baalbek where they shared with her their story of how they left their home in Rural Homs. “We left our home and fled with only the clothes on our backs as bombing and shelling hit our neighbourhood nine months ago and our home was totally destroyed,” said Abeer, a 35-year-old wife and mother of four daughters. “We left everything behind and are struggling to make ends meet. The food vouchers that we receive from WFP are giving us a break and we don’t have to worry about feeding our children.”
WFP aims to reach more than 85,000 refugees with food vouchers in Lebanon this month. The innovative voucher system is often used by WFP in urban settings where beneficiaries can buy their own groceries, including fresh food, from local shops, which also helps boost the local economy.
“My responsibility is to provide a voice to the humanitarian needs of the displaced Syrians whom I met today and to work with the international community to ensure that we continue to address the basic needs of Syrians whether still inside Syria or in neighbouring countries,” said Cousin in a press conference in Beirut.
WFP has launched a regional emergency operation to cover the food needs of Syrians who have fled to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Tomorrow Cousin will visit Jordan.
For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@example.org):
Abeer Etefa, WFP/Cairo, Tel. +202 2528 1730 ext. 2600 Mob. +2 010 666 34352
Laure Chadraoui, WFP/Beirut-Amman, Mob. + 962795917987 and +9613489925
Emilia Casella, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39 06 6513 3854, Mob. +39 347 9450634
Elisabeth Byrs, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41 22 917 8564, Mob. +41 79 473 4570
Bettina Luescher, WFP/New York, Tel. +1 646 5566909, Mob. +1 646 8241112
Gregory Barrow, WFP/London, Tel. +44 20 72409001, Mob. +44 7968 008474
Rene McGuffin, WFP/Washington, Tel. +1 202 6530010 ext. 1149, Mob. +1 202 4223383
Reem Nada, WFP/Cairo, Tel. +202 2528 1730 ext. 2610, Mob. +2 010 666 34522