The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is feeding more than 7,000 Syrian refugees in Egypt through a newly-launched food voucher operation that is underway in other parts of the region.
“WFP plans to provide assistance to as many as 30,000 Syrians in Egypt by June 2013,” Country Director and Representative in Egypt, GianPietro Bordignon, said in a statement.
Under the programme, Syrian refugees registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) receive an electronic or paper-based voucher card on a monthly basis. The card can be exchanged in a local participating supermarket for food such as cereals, dairy products, fruits and vegetables.
“We work closely with the beneficiaries to implement the programme. They have been helping us by organizing themselves and they have even offered their homes and facilities to be used for voucher distributions,” Mr. Bordignon said of the programme.
“We were very impressed by the level of their voluntary contribution to the programme,” he added.
Last week, more than 3,000 Syrian refugees received vouchers in the first round of distribution in the Cairo satellite cities of Al-Obour and 6th of October City, as well as Damietta near the Nile.
WFP is planning to reach an additional 4,000 Syrians in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria by the end of this month.
More than 90,000 Syrians are reported to be in Egypt, but only about 15,000 of them registered with UNHCR, according to the agency.
A similar electronic voucher programme for Syrian refugees is being successfully implemented elsewhere, including in a refugee camp on the Turkish side of the border with Syria.
“I like it because now I can cook exactly the same things we used to cook in Syria,” Azia, a mother whose husband is still in Syria told WFP.
“Coming from a village, we used to grow our own vegetables, and now we have the opportunity to buy things that I used to grow and make the same type of food.”
As one of the programme’s 20,000 participants, she receives an “e-card” each month credited with 80 Turkish Lira ($45) per person.
The electronic voucher system is also good for the local economy, WFP said, since it allows families to shop in the participating local markets instead of receiving food aid bought in other areas or possibly imported from outside the countries.
The food programmes are part of WFP’s regional emergency operation to support Syrian families who have fled the ongoing conflict in their homeland to neighbouring Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
The efforts are part of the 2013 Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan to assist 4 million people in collaboration with UN agencies, funds and programmes.