The humanitarian situation in Syria continues to deteriorate. More and more people are being made destitute as fighting continues. The World Food Programme (WFP) is struggling to meet the urgent food needs of more than five million displaced people in Syria and in neighbouring countries. Food operations are severely underfunded, meaning that WFP has been forced to reduce the level of assistance it provides to refugees across the region.
In October 2016, as a result of new donor support, WFP was able to increase the value of the electronic vouchers it uses to provide food assistance to extremely vulnerable Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon to an average of US$21 per person per month – 80 percent of the full intended voucher value. This is a positive development as assistance was cut down to 50 percent on average during the previous months due to a severe lack of funding.
From the onset of the crisis, WFP has been on the frontlines doing whatever it takes to deliver food to millions of people who need it.
Every month, WFP uses over 3,000 trucks to deliver emergency food assistance to hundreds of distribution points in all 14 Syrian governorates, In besieged or hard-to reach areas, where regular deliveries are not possible and humanitarian needs are extremely high, WFP employs creative solutions, including cross-border operations from Turkey and Jordan, as well as airlifts and high-altitude airdrops. WFP also takes part in inter-agency cross-line convoys which bring humanitarian assistance to people living in besieged locations. Working with 47 local and international partners,WFP distributes food rations to between 4 and 5 million people.
WFP also provides electronic food vouchers (e-cards) to 1.5 million refugees in neighbouring countries. Thanks to the food e-card system, WFP has injected more than US$1 billion into the local economies of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, and helped create thousands of local jobs in the food retail sector.
What the World Food Programme is doing to respond to the Syria emergency
General food distribution
Every month, WFP distributes family food rations to more than 4 million displaced and conflict-affected people across Syria. Each ration – containing staple foods including rice, bulgur wheat, pasta, lentils, canned food, sugar, salt, cooking oil and wheat flour – is enough to feed a family of five. For displaced families on the move and with no access to cooking facilities, WFP provides ready-to-eat meals or hot meals through communal kitchens.
Resilience and livelihoods
To strengthen local markets and services, WFP restores and promotes livelihoods through food production, asset rehabilitation and income generation activities. These include the rehabilitation of bakeries, restoring and enhancing beekeeping – a traditional livelihood activity in Syria – as well as promoting local production of specialized fortified foods and creating employment opporunities at packaging and warehouses facilities for WFP operations.
As part of UNICEF’s No Lost Generation initiative, WFP provides school snacks of high-energy date bars and UHT milk to up to 750,000 children in more than 500 schools across the country. WFP also provides vulnerable families with out-of-school children with vouchers to buy food from selected stores, encouraging them to enrol their children in remedial education programmes supported by UNICEF.
To prevent malnutrition, WFP provides 240,000 children under the age of 2 with specialized nutritious foods and assists 30,000 young children and pregnant and nursing women through Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) centres across the country. Some 65,000 pregnant and nursing women receive vouchers to buy fresh products at selected shops, thus complementing and diversifying the food basket they receive from WFP.
Critical funding shortages
Millions of Syrian refugees need help and we have an obligation to ensure that their basic needs are met. Syrians in despair are now taking extreme measures to cope, including returning to Syria or leaving host countries for elsewhere. Those in the most difficult and vulnerable situations in neighbouring countries are unable to move because they cannot afford it.
In 2015, WFP faced critical funding shortages that forced it to reduce the level of assistance it provides to vulnerable Syrians inside and outside the country.