Funding crisis halts food voucher program for 1.7 million Syrian refugees

In this Wednesday December 11, 2013 file photo, a Syrian refugee woman with her children prepares food near her tent as a heavy snowstorm batters the region, in a camp for Syrians who fled their countryâ
Lack of funding has forced the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to suspend a voucher program that provides aid to 1.7 million Syrian refugees.
In Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, refugees who use vouchers from WFP to buy food in local shops may be facing the winter months without the much needed support.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said the funding crisis "couldn't come at a worse time" in statement released on Monday.
"Winter is already an extremely difficult period for Syrian refugees, but the suspension of food assistance at this critical juncture is going to be devastating," said Guterres. "It will impact tens of thousands of the most vulnerable refugee families who are almost entirely dependent on international aid."
The funding shortage was caused in part by donors not fulfilling their commitment to the program according to the WFP. In order to support Syrian refugees in neighboring countries for the month of December, $64 million is needed.
If more funding arrives in December, WFP has said it will immediately restart the voucher program. Footage from the informal Marej settlement in Lebanon, embedded below, shows the dire situation faced by some Syrian refugees as winter approaches. In Lebanon, where there are no formal camps for the country's 1.1 million Syrian refugees, the suspension of the program could have devastating affects.

Funding for WFP comes entirely from donations and government agencies are the principle supporters.
Just last week, the U.S. government donated $125 million to the food voucher program.
According to WFP, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) donation included $55 million to help provide food to 4 million people living inside Syria and $70 million for assistance to refugees in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, with food vouchers.
But the donation was only enough to support the program through the end of November. WFP requires $35 million in funding each week to feed Syrian refugees and those internally displaced by the conflict. In order to sustain the voucher program through December, $64 million is needed says the group, which has launched an online appeal for donations.
“A suspension of WFP food assistance will endanger the health and safety of these refugees and will potentially cause further tensions, instability and insecurity in the neighboring host countries,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, in a statement released by WFP on Monday. “The suspension of WFP food assistance will be disastrous for many already suffering families."
Since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, WFP has provided food and food vouchers to refugees. The group estimates that $800 million dollars has been injected into the economies of countries neighboring Syria that have played host to the country's refugees.

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