UN halts food aid for 1.7 mln Syrian refugees

UN halts food aid for 1.7 mln Syrian refugees

GENEVA - Reuters
UN halts food aid for 1.7 mln Syrian refugees

Kurdish refugees from the Syrian town of Kobane queue to obtain food in a camp in the southeastern town of Suruç, Şanlıurfa, in this file photo. REUTERS Photo / Osman Orsal

A lack of funds has forced the U.N. World Food Programme to stop providing food vouchers for 1.7 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, the agency said Dec. 1.

“Without WFP vouchers, many families will go hungry. For refugees already struggling to survive the harsh winter, the consequences of halting this assistance will be devastating,” said WFP, which needs $64 million to support the refugees for the rest of December.

The electronic voucher program has already injected about $800 million into local shops in the countries hosting refugees, and WFP will immediately resume it if new funding arrives, the statement said.

WFP had warned last month that it might be forced to impose such a suspension and said it might have to announce a similar suspension in January for people reliant on aid within Syria.

The agency has already cut rations for 4.25 million people in Syria.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR has said that a lack of cash has forced it to prioritize as it helps those in need prepare for winter, with preference for people at higher, colder altitudes and vulnerable refugees such as newborn babies.    

Iraq bracing for winter

Meanwhile, aid organizations have warned that snow began falling on the Kurdish north hosting nearly half of people displaced by conflict in Iraq, number of which has grown to 2.1 million.

Most of the displaced in Iraq were forced to flee their homes during successive waves of violence in early 2014 and after jihadist offensives in June and August.

Violence continues to force thousands from their homes, and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq said in an update that one of the most affected areas in recent days had been the Kirkuk region.

“More humanitarian actors and greater attention are urgently needed in order to expand the provision of assistance to IDPs [internally displaced people] in Kirkuk,” the U.N. said.

It said snow had begun falling on parts of the Dohuk governorate, the northwestern Kurdish province which hosts the largest number of IDPs in Iraq.

“The lack of proper shelter, thermal insulation of shelters and non-food items will eventually negatively impact the health status of displaced populations during winter,” the U.N. report said.