13 March 2007 The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today appealed for $1.7 million for a new operation to feed some 30,000 of the poorest Iraqi refugees who are now in Syria after fleeing escalating violence in their own country.
“Those leaving Iraq are doing so in greater haste and either have had no time to sell their belongings, or cannot find buyers,” WFP Country Representative in Syria Pippa Bradford said. “As a result, people arrive in Syria with far less cash, only to find there are fewer opportunities to cope than for those who came before them.”
An estimated 1.8 million Iraqi refugees are currently scattered around the Middle East, with Syria hosting nearly 1 million of them. In consultation with the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) which is monitoring the Iraqis, WFP plans to provide assistance for up to 30,000 Iraqis unable to afford their basic food needs.
Up to mid-2006, many Iraqi refugees entering Syria had adequate resources to cover their needs, but as targeted violence continues, the number of those fleeing and arriving unable to sustain themselves is rapidly increasing. Most of the extremely poor refugees are situated in suburbs around Damascus as well as near Aleppo, Al-Qameshly and Al-Hasaka near the north-eastern parts of the country.
“Many of these are people who don’t have the financial reserves to meet the daily needs of their families, including the schooling of their children,” Ms. Bradford said. “And without work permits, increased competition has made the search for illegal low paid work more difficult and exploitation more common.”
WFP is already helping some 7,000 people and will increase the number by 2,500 every month until the end of the year, using a screening system run by UNHCR.
Among the beneficiaries are 650 Palestinian refugees living in dire conditions in two locations along the Syria-Iraq border. WFP is appealing to donors to provide $1.7 million to purchase and distribute over 2,800 metric tons of rice, vegetable oil and pulses up to the end of the year.
“While the Government, with UNHCR’s support, has opened the doors of their schools and health care centres to allow the refugees to access social services, those who are most vulnerable are still unable to provide themselves with the basics, including food,” Ms. Bradford said.