AMMAN – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is providing food for tens of thousands of Syrians seeking refuge in Turkey and Iraq amid growing concern that the influx of new arrivals is further straining the agency’s ability to respond to more needs with dwindling stocks and donations running out.
Since September, more than 200,000 refugees from Syria’s Kobane region have crossed the Syrian borders into Turkey and Iraq. Following requests from the Iraqi and Turkish governments, WFP immediately mobilized urgently needed food supplies. But food had to be borrowed from existing rations originally destined to be trucked into Syria this month.
“This influx comes at a critical time as we struggle to meet the urgent food needs of more than six million displaced people inside Syria and in neighbouring countries, let alone new-arrivals,” said Muhannad Hadi, WFP’s Regional Emergency Coordinator for the Syrian crisis. “Stocks being used to meet the recent increasing needs will urgently need to be replenished and we count on the generosity of our donors and especially the Gulf countries so that these people who have just fled horror don’t go hungry,” he added.
In the Turkish border town of Suruc, according to government estimates, over 190,000 refugees are now seeking shelter, the single highest influx recorded since the beginning of the Syria crisis. In coordination with local authorities and the Turkish Red Crescent (TRC), WFP began the distribution of food rations and plans to release an additional 370 metric tonnes of food enough to cover 60,000 people for a period of two weeks.
Over half of the new-arrivals moved to settle in with families already living in local communities, while the remaining families moved into the pre-existing camps in Iraq and newly established transit sites near the Syrian-Turkish border.
In Iraq, some 2,700 newly arrived refugees in Gawilan camp in Dohuk governorate have been assisted with food parcels. WFP is working to reach all other newly arrived refugees. They have settled mostly in the four pre-existing camps in Erbil governorate and in Arbat camp in Suleymaniyah where they will be reached through existing food assistance programmes.
While WFP works to release more supplies from its remaining stocks, food partners in both Iraq and Turkey are working to fill the gaps. WFP is also coordinating with other humanitarian agencies and is developing contingency plans in case a larger number of people arrive in the coming weeks.
In September, WFP warned that it was running out of funds to provide food for the almost six million Syrians receiving its life-saving assistance. Inside Syria, WFP has been forced to cut back the size of food parcels distributed in October by 40 percent (reducing the calories to 1,140 calories per person) because of the late arrival of financial contributions.
Following generous pledges of funding from major donors, WFP was able to avert cuts in food assistance in October for close to two million Syrian refugees who rely on WFP food vouchers. The additional funding also allowed WFP to order additional commodities for distribution inside Syria for November. Current funding, however, is not sufficient to avoid food voucher cuts in November and December.
The Syria response is WFP’s largest and most complex emergency worldwide. WFP needs to raise US$35 million every week to meet the food needs of people affected by the Syrian conflict.
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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food in emergencies and working with communities to build resilience. In 2013, WFP assisted more than 80 million people in 75 countries.
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