The United Nations’ food aid agency announced on Monday that lack of funds is forcing the organization to suspend food assistance to some 1.7 million Syrian refugees. “The program, which provides electronic vouchers for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt to buy food at local stores, faces a $64 million shortfall, the agency said, attributing the problem to ‘unfulfilled’ donor commitments,” the Washington Post reports.
The U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) says it needs $64 million to provide food aid to Syrian refugees for the month of December. Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict the organization says the food assistance program has pumped $800 million into the local economies of refugee-receiving nations that host Syrian refugees. “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 neighbouring host countries,” WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said. “The suspension of WFP food assistance will be disastrous for many already suffering families.”
“International relief organizations routinely cajole donor countries for more money to deal with the Syria conflict as well as an array of other aid crises, from the Central African Republic to Ukraine, warning of impending disaster if the money does not arrive,” the New York Times reports. “Yet it is highly unusual for a major aid provider like the World Food Program to follow through on its admonishments by immediately suspending a major assistance operation.”
“The United States gave the agency $125 million last week: $70 million to cover the cost of refugee vouchers in November, and $55 million to support food deliveries to about four million people in Syria until year’s end,” according to the Times.