Surpassing fundraising goal, UN agency restarts urgent food aid for Syrian refugees

A WFP distribution centre in Damascus, Syria. Photo: WFP (file)

9 December 2014 – A week after launching its social media campaign to raise emergency funding for food assistance aimed at Syrian refugees, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today that it had not only reached its initial goal of $64 million, but also exceeded it thanks to a “massive expression” of support from the public, the private sector and donor countries.

The 72-hour Dollar for Syrian Refugees campaign kicked-off last Wednesday following WFP’s announcement that it was suspending a food voucher programme targeting 1.7 million destitute Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.

The refugees use the electronic vouchers to purchase food in local shops and without them many families would simply go hungry. As many of them already live in very precarious conditions, the agency had warned that the consequences of halting food assistance will be “devastating.”

The campaign, which elicited one dollar donations from the public through online contributions, quickly raised more than $80 million, far surpassing the pre-established $64 million goal the WFP had set. The electronic vouchers will now be uploaded with an average amount of $30 per family member available for immediate use in local shops while the excess amount will allow for some funding to carry through to January.

“This outpouring of support in such a short time is unprecedented,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, in a news release. “We’re especially grateful to the many individual members of the public who reached into their own pockets to send whatever they could to help Syrian refugees who have lost everything. They showed that even as little as a dollar can make a difference.”

The online campaign, which featured musician Aloe Blacc’s chart-topping hit “I Need A Dollar” as the soundtrack for its promotional video, received the largest amount of financial support from the United States, followed by Canada and Syria. WFP is still accepting donations through webpage and members of the public are encouraged to continue to contribute.

Since the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011, WFP has succeeded in meeting the food needs of both refugees and millions of displaced people inside Syria, despite the fighting and problems of access.

This has been possible because of long-term donor funding for WFP operations and cooperation between WFP staff, partner organizations and host governments in the region. The agency has stressed that it is critical for this funding and cooperation to continue.

In other news on the front, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced today that it has provided winter assistance to Palestinian refugee children from Syria in Lebanon through ATM cards from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

This assistance consists of $30 per child (18 years old and below) which will enable caregivers to purchase children’s winter clothing. The assistance is for all Palestine refugee children from Syria in Lebanon who have recorded with UNRWA by 30 November 2014.

The interim Director of UNRWA in Lebanon, Heli Uusikyla, welcomed the continued cooperation between UNICEF and UNRWA, appreciating the valuable support UNICEF provides to Palestine refugee children, including on education, WASH and health. Palestine refugee children from Syria are particularly vulnerable and the winterization assistance provided to them by UNICEF will come to good use in the coming cold winter months.

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UN agency launches social media campaign to bring urgent food aid to Syrian refugees

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