Food group answers Turkey’s Syrian SOS

Food group answers Turkey’s Syrian SOS

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Food group answers Turkey’s Syrian SOS

Syrians taking shelter in Turkey shop in a market in this photo. Along with Kızılay the UN initiate a new program, responding the needs of refugees. AA Photo

The United Nations has responded to Ankara’s call on the international community to share Turkey’s burden of the cost of sheltering Syrian refugees in its territory. Refugee numbers have already exceeded 100,000.

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and the Turkish Red Crescent Society (Türk Kızılay) agreed on Oct. 13 to a partnership to establish a food e-card program responding to the needs of Syrian refugees in Turkey.

The electronic food card program started in Kilis last weekend and will expand to four more camps in Hatay. 80 Turkish Liras per person will be loaded onto electronic food cards each month for the purchase of essential food items from local supermarkets in the camps.

“Up until Saturday the Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) was paying for food and hygiene items and everything (at the Kilis camp). Since then we have taken over food, but AFAD will deliver non-food items,” Daly Belgasmi, regional director of the WFP, said in an interview with the Hürriyet Daily News.

Some 13,000 electronic cards were delivered to Syrian refugees in Kilis last weekend. The WFP plans to deliver 40,000-50,000 more cards until the end of year and 100,000 cards next year, Belgasmi said.
The WFP will finance the program through international donations until the end of 2012. Countries such as the U.S., Japan, and the E.U. donate to Syrian refugees in Turkey through the WFP, Belgasmi said.
The WFP needs $27 million to cover the needs of 100,000 Syrian refugees through June 2013.
“We now have sufficient donations to cover 40,000 people till the end of the year – 5.5 million dollars until now. But next year we need additional donations,” Belgasmi said.

“Turkey, on the one hand, wants to fulfill its humanitarian duty towards Syrians with whom it has historic ties of brotherhood. But on the other hand, the rising number of refugees brings a certain load. This burden has to be shared with the international community,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said in August.

The WFP said the pilot scheme in Kilis was meant to partially share Turkey’s burden with regard to Syrian refugees, a Turkish diplomat told the Daily News.

Nearly 400 million Turkish Liras have been spent caring for Syrian refugees in Turkey and after factoring in local expenses, the overall figure could increase, Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek has said, according to a private broadcaster NTV report on Oct. 16.

The funds were transferred to sources providing for over 100,000 refugees currently staying in camps in Turkey, Şimşek said. Municipalities are also spending additional amounts to cover necessary costs while the Turkish state has spent more on general expenses involved with the refugees. AFAD will continue to provide food assistance in other camps for Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Belgasmi said the WFP purchased a large percentage of food from Turkey for use in its other operations around the world. “We spent something like $100 million dollars for 2010-2011 [for purchase of food from Turkey]. Turkey is very important for us,” he said.