UN food agency to double the number of Iraqi refugees in Syria it helps
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today announced that it will provide assistance to more than double the number of Iraqi refugees in Syria it is currently helping and called on donors to support the operation.
WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran, who met recently with senior Syrian officials and groups of Iraqi refugees in Damascus, warned that despite the efforts of the host Government and donors, “more Iraqi women, children and men are unable to meet their basic food needs and social support systems in Syria are being overstretched.”
About a third of Iraqi respondents in a recent UN assessment said they skipped one meal a day to feed their children, while nearly 60 per cent resort to buying less expensive foods, often less nutritious, to cope with the food prices that have increased dramatically.
Based on this assessment, WFP decided to expand its assistance from the current caseload of 51,000 people to cover as many as 114,000 of the most needy Iraqis in Syria by April 2008. The beneficiaries will receive a monthly food ration made up of rice, vegetable oil and lentils.
But the agency has not even yet received enough funding for the current caseload; its $5.6 million operation is facing a shortfall of 38 per cent.
“We appeal to donors for more support to help the vulnerable among the Iraqis in Syria live with dignity until they can go home safely,” Ms. Sheeran said.
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq Staffan de Mistura met yesterday with Iran’s Ambassador to Baghdad to discuss the need for Iraq’s ongoing and positive engagement with Iraq as well as with its other neighbours.
Mr. de Mistura and Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qumi also talked about possible increased support by Iran for Iraqi reconstruction under the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq.
During the meeting, Mr. Qumi raised the issue of the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran (PMoI) and whether the UN has a position on the legality of its members in Iraq. While not commenting on the legal status issue, Mr. de Mistura replied that he has no plans to meet with the organization.