BEIRUT – The UN World Food Programme (WFP) Ambassador Against Hunger Hend Sabry has visited Syrian refugees in Beirut as part of her efforts to draw attention to the plight of more than two million Syrians who fled violence to neighbouring countries
The Tunisian actress visited homes of Syrian families. “Today in Borj Hammoud I felt how small we are and how we take everything for granted until it is all lost,” said Sabry following a house call Thursday to a Syrian refugee family in Borj Hammoud in east Beirut. “I will never forget 9-year-old Laureen who dreams of returning to school and carries her pink school bag everywhere; she opened it for me and showed me all the books she can't use anymore as she hasn't seen a school in two years since she fled her house.”
During her visit to Beirut, Sabry visited a WFP distribution centre where food parcels are distributed to families who are newly arrived and who have not yet registered. She also spent time with some of these families as they received their welcome parcels, designed to provide enough food for a family of five for one month.
In September WFP rolled out an e-card programme, which is gradually replacing paper vouchers for on-going assistance. Families who qualify for assistance receive a card loaded monthly with US$27 for each member of the family, which can be redeemed against a list of items at participating local stores. That allows them to buy the food of their choice, including fresh produce, which is not normally included in traditional food rations. The card is topped up automatically so refugees do not have to wait in line each month to receive their entitlements.
Refugee families that Sabry visited said the e-card assistance is also saving them a lot on transport costs. By the end of the year, the programme will allow more than 800,000 Syrians refugees to buy their food at local shops and at the same time give a boost to the local economy. Close to 250 small and medium-size shops across the country are involved in the WFP voucher programme. Since the beginning of 2013, the voucher system has injected around US$100 million into the local economy of Lebanon.
Last year, Sabry visited Jordan’s Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees and will be visiting Syrians in other countries. “We have to always remember that it could have been us, anytime, anywhere,” Sabry said. “Let’s count our blessings, while we do everything in our capacity to help vulnerable Syrians inside and outside their conflict-torn country.”
The Government of Lebanon estimates that 1.3 million Syrians are in the country, or 30 percent of the population of Lebanon. WFP has been providing assistance for more than one million refugees in neighbouring countries and reaching close to 4 million people per month inside Syria.
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