Nine-month-old Elena waits with her mother for the distribution of WFP food assistance vouchers. Copyright: WFP/Amina Alkorey
As Syrians continue to flood out of their home country into neighbouring territories, WFP strives to assist the increasing influx of refugees. In Egypt, WFP assists close to 100,000 Syrian refugees through food assistance vouchers. With an average of 6,000 new Syrian refugees every month, WFP continues to open up distribution sites hoping to reach out to others living in remote areas.
CAIRO - Every month, thousands of Syrian refugees head to WFP’s distribution points across four governorates in Egypt to receive their food assistance vouchers. Each family member receives a food voucher valued at 200 Egyptian Pounds (US$28) every month.
Nesrine Souky stood among hundreds of Syrian refugees awaiting the distribution of WFP food assistance vouchers. Her fair complexion, typical of many Syrian nationals, easily distinguishes her among others in her newly adopted home, Egypt. Her blue eyes spoke volumes of the ordeal she and her family lived through in Syria.
“I am one of the lucky few who actually managed to make it out of Syria with all of my family members,” Souky said. Nesrine is a mother to two boys, Khalil, 12, and Mohamed, 11.
Despite the fact that Nesrine’s husband is with her in Egypt and is working for a monthly salary of 1,000 Egyptian Pounds (US$140), considered by many Egyptians a high-end income, Nesrine says they live under very difficult conditions; rent alone costs 850 Egyptian Pounds (almost US$120).
“We’re left with 150 pounds to live off for the entire month,” Nesrine says. “Without WFP vouchers we would starve to death. If the assistance were ever to stop I don’t know what we would do.”
Easing A Heavy Burden
In hard times children are usually hit hardest. Another mother queues at the distribution centre carrying Elena, a nine-month-old Syrian baby girl born in refuge. Her mother constantly worries about providing day-to-day necessities for Elena and her brother.
“One day we hope to go back home and live in dignity,” said Elena's mother, who preferred to remain anonymous. “It is very difficult to know your child needs something and you can’t afford it.”
Since the start of the emergency programme in February 2013, WFP has injected US$22 million into the local economy through food vouchers given out to Syrian refugees. Families spent their vouchers at two major Egyptian hypermarkets WFP has an agreement with.
According to Rana El-Boqaa, a mother of four, the vouchers are necessary to free up their little incomes for other necessities. “The assistance we receive has in an indirect way given us the chance to buy much-needed medication,” she says. “We don’t have to worry about saving up money to buy food, we have our vouchers. Whatever money we manage to get we spend on other vital essentials such as medication.”
Rana, who has been in Egypt for nearly two years, says she is not considering going back to Syria at the moment.
“As long as the war is still ongoing we can’t go back. I’ve seen our neighbours get killed in front of my own eyes. I fear for my children.”
A graduate of the American University in Cairo with a specialization in journalism, photography, and broadcasting. Worked previously for four years with the UN Refugee Agency as a public information officer. Worked for several years as well with numerous magazines in Egypt.