WFP urges more support for vulnerable Iraqis in Syria

Published on 12 March 2007

The United Nations World Food Programme today announced that it will scale up efforts to provide basic food assistance to the most vulnerable Iraqi refugees in Syria and called on the international community to support its growing operation there.

The World Food Programme has announced that it will scale up efforts to provide basic food assistance to the most

...more Iraqi women, children and men are unable to meet their basic food needs and social support systems in Syria are being overstretched
WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran

vulnerable Iraqi refugees in Syria and called on the international community to support its growing operation there.

“The Syrian people have generously embraced nearly 1.5 million Iraqis in their midst. Donors have been supportive too. But more Iraqi women, children and men are unable to meet their basic food needs and social support systems in Syria are being overstretched,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran after meetings with senior Syrian officials and groups of Iraqi refugees in Damascus.

Tragedies and hardships

An increasing number of Iraqi refugees in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance despite the continuing efforts of the Syrian government to support them.

At the end of a two-day mission to Syria, Ms. Sheeran said: “I listened to the stories of courageous women who survived many tragedies and hardships in the past few years. We appeal to donors for more support to help the vulnerable among the Iraqis in Syria live with dignity until they can go home safely.”

Assessment

About a third of Iraqi respondents in a recent UN assessment said they skipped one meal a day to feed their children. The assessment, conducted by WFP in collaboration with UNHCR, UNICEF and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) showed that nearly 60 percent of the respondents resort to buying less expensive foods, often less nutritious, to cope with the food prices that have increased dramatically.

Based on this assessment, WFP decided to double the number of Iraqi refugees who receive food assistance.

From the current caseload of 51,000 people, the UN food assistance agency will expand the assistance to cover as many as 114,000 of the most needy Iraqis in Syria by April 2008. WFP, however, has not even yet received enough funding for the current caseload.

Shortfall

Its US$ 5.6 million operation is facing a shortfall of 38 percent. The Iraqis who benefit from WFP assistance receive a monthly food ration made up of rice, vegetable oil, and lentils.

In addition to US$2 million that WFP assigned for the operation to assist Iraqi refugees in Syria from multi-lateral funds donated by various countries, the organization received contributions from the US (US$ 665,000), Switzerland (US$438,000), Saudi Arabia (US$268,000) and Norway (US$24,000).