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Assistance to Iraqi Refugees in Syria

This document 200040 has been modified as per Budget Revision 1 (see below).

Since the onset of conflict in Iraq, the Syrian Arab Republic continues to host the largest population of Iraqi refugees, most of whom have settled in the capital Damascus. Many of these refugees have been made vulnerable by the extended duration of their displacement and the erosion of their means of subsistence. As refugees in Syria are not permitted to work, own property or obtain licenses to operate businesses, they are fully dependent on external support, including remittances and humanitarian assistance. This external support is frequently insufficient to cover basic living expenses, such as the cost of food, rent and health care; the plight of the refugees has also been further compounded by the global economic crisis, which has driven up food and fuel prices and reduced remittances. This situation is forcing an increasing number of refugees to seek unofficial employment, and exposing them to situations that raise protection concerns. The 2010 elections in Iraq have further renewed uncertainty amongst the refugees about the likelihood of an early return home.

WFP currently provides food assistance to Iraqi refugees in Syria through Regional EMOP 10717, which will end on 30 April 2010. This proposed new phase of the EMOP, EMOP Syria 200040, “Assistance to Iraqi Refugees in Syria”, has been designed on the basis of the findings and recommendations of a UN Joint Assessment Mission (JAM) in June 2009, a Response Analysis Project (RAP) mission conducted by WFP headquarters in July 2009 and a review of lessons learnt from the current EMOP 10717. Both the JAM and the RAP confirmed the need to continue food assistance to all categories of registered refugees, to diversify the food basket and to adjust the ration size.

The EMOP Syria 200040 aims to save lives and protect the livelihoods of Iraqi and non-Iraqi refugees (WFP Strategic Objective 1), by providing adequate food assistance to the most vulnerable refugee groups. It also aims to strengthen the capacity of government entities to implement emergency operations (WFP Strategic Objective 5) through partnerships in the implementation of the EVS, with its possible integration in the national safety nets programme at a later stage. 

The EMOP is for a duration of 12 months and will cover a caseload of 150,000 beneficiaries. It will be implemented in partnership and cooperation with UNHCR, the State Planning Commission (SPC), the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and (for the EVS) the General Establishment for Storage and Marketing of Agricultural and Animal Products (GESMAAP).

Under the EMOP, WFP will expand food assistance to include all refugee groups identified as vulnerable, including previously excluded groups: Iraqi refugees who arrived before 2003, single and able-bodied yet still vulnerable Iraqi males between 18 and 50 years of age (as recommended by the JAM), approximately 1,000 Palestinians from Iraq and a small group of non-Iraqi refugees.

The EMOP will provide assistance through both in-kind food distribution and vouchers. WFP Syria has been piloting and testing an Electronic Voucher System (EVS) since October 2009, which has since been expanded to cover a total of 2,000 households as of January 2010. Under the EVS, beneficiaries will be able to select their food rations from a list of seven items and 11 varieties at any time and at the closest available point of sale, up to a predetermined voucher value.

The in-kind food basket has also been adjusted to provide a more diversified ration in quantities and varieties of commodities that better meet the needs of beneficiaries, as established during the RAP consultative process with stakeholders. The operation is designed to maintain daily nutritional requirements and dietary needs during the different climatic seasons by including animal protein and an increased oil ration during the winter months. UNHCR's complementary food items will be integrated into WFP's food basket, which will provide a 2,085 kcal average ration.

Given the legal context, self-reliance activities cannot be promoted as a recovery strategy. A phasing out of assistance to the targeted population will only be possible once the political and security situation in Iraq improves and the refugees can return home and/or when viable, legal livelihood opportunities can be pursued in Syria.

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Country at a glance 2014
Planned Beneficiaries0
Beneficiary needs (mt)731,808
Beneficiary needs ($US)927,372,896
Donors - 2014 ($US)
Donors - Directed contributions
Multilateral contributionsUS$ 4,922,000
USA32,848,600
Canada23,339,318
Kuwait13,000,000
United Kingdom5,000,000
Switzerland4,545,455
Japan4,500,000
Denmark2,868,330
Belgium2,758,621
Finland1,367,989
France1,356,852
Austria410,397
Private Donors138,779
Bulgaria138,738
Hungary40,706
Andorra7,385
Threats to food security
  • High food prices
  • Political instability
  • Population displacement
  • Influx of refugees
  • Droughts
  • Subsistence farming and herdin