GENEVA – WFP joined other humanitarian aid agencies on Wednesday in unveiling an expanded plan to assist people fleeing fighting in Syria to neighbouring countries during the first six months of 2013.
The new plan, in which UN refugee agency UNHCR plays a key role, is based on estimates that up to 1 million Syrian refugees will need help during the first half of 2013.[UNHCR Regional Response Plan for Syrian Refugees]
“This rapid scale up is dramatic. We are preparing for an increase of up to 750,000 refugees,” said WFP Emergency Coordinator David Kaatrud as the new plan was launched in Geneva. “WFP is putting major infrastructure in place - logistics, telecoms and other common services.”
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The plan covers the programmes of 55 humanitarian agencies and NGOs involved in the operations to assist families fleeing Syria to Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt. Agencies are appealing for a total of US$1 billion to fund operations.
“This massive humanitarian crisis requires urgent support from governments, business and private individuals,” said Panos Moumtzis, UNHCR’s Regional Coordinator for Syrian Refugees.
Some 525,000 Syrians are currently being assisted in countries surrounding Syria. Joint needs assessments carried out recently in these countries showed that food is a top priority.
The cost of WFP’s regional response is expected to jump to around US$200 million for the five countries, up from around US$60 million when it was originally launched in July.
WFP teams in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are making extensive use of food vouchers to respond to the needs of vulnerable Syrians who fled to these countries. These vouchers enable refugees to buy a range of food items, including fresh produce, which is not normally included in food rations.
“We are targeting not only registered refugees. Special attention is being paid to those awaiting registration,” Kaatrud said, adding that WFP was coordinating very closely with the governments of the countries hosting the refugees.
WFP reached close to 183,000 refugees in the four countries during November through food vouchers and conventional food distributions. Recently, the Egyptian government has officially requested WFP to provide assistance.
Meanwhile, inside Syria WFP is reaching about 1.5 million people monthly. However, the escalation of violence is making it more difficult to reach the country’s hardest-hit areas, especially in the north.