New Food Vouchers Welcomed By Syrian Refugees In Zaatari

In Jordan’s biggest refugee camp, WFP has begun a shift in the way it provides food to families who have fled the conflict in Syria. Instead of traditional food rations, refugees are being introduced to vouchers, which allow them to start buying their own food. With products like cheese and eggs now more accessible, the initial reaction has been enthusiastic.

AMMAN – Syrian refugees living in Zaatari camp, in Jordan, have welcomed the arrival of WFP food vouchers allowing them to buy the food of their choice from designated shops inside the camp.

Until now, refugees have received regular ‘dry’ rations of lentils, rice and bulgar along with sugar, salt and some canned food. Now they can buy a wider range of food, including fresh produce such as eggs, meat, milk and cheese.

A panoramic trip to the market

Woman using her electronic voucher at the grocery store

“I haven’t had eggs for a long time,” said Sawsan, a mother of five children, from Dara’a, who fled the conflict in Syria over a year ago. “I can now buy milk and cheese,” she added as she entered one of the shops, crowded with Syrian refugees eager to use their new vouchers.

Shifting to vouchers

Fatema and her husband Mohammad were also pleased. “We visited five of the shops and purchased different products from three of them. We like to be able to select our own food and take just what we need.”

WFP in Jordan has completed its first distribution of food vouchers to all Syrian refugees living in Zaatari camp, now home to more than 100,000 people. For an introductory period refugees will receive a voucher in addition to the regular monthly ration.

“We are introducing the food vouchers in Zaatari camp gradually, to give the refugees the time to familiarize themselves with this new form of assistance. Over the coming weeks, we will start to increase the value of the voucher while reducing the food commodities until the camp is assisted entirely through food vouchers,” said Jonathan Campbell, WFP Emergency Coordinator in Jordan.

Refugees have begun shopping with vouchers in the special shops set up in the camp by local community organisations. Any profit made is used to support the local organisations’ development and charitable activities in the Jordanian communities surrounding the camp.

More like a city

“Zaatari camp is becoming less of a camp and more like a city. We want to ensure that refugees have access to shops near them and to a variety of food products,” said Campbell. “By involving Jordanian community organisations to set up the shops and ensuring supplies are sourced from local traders, the voucher system also helps to support the towns and villages around the camp and boost the local economy.”

The voucher system is already functioning outside the camp, benefiting Syrian refugees living in communities in all Jordan’s 12 governorates. In August, WFP reached more than 300,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan through food vouchers, injecting over US$11 million into the Jordanian economy.

WFP also uses food vouchers to assist Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Through the system the local economies of these countries have received over US$153 million since the beginning of 2013.