The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today said “a critical shortage of funding” has forced it to reduce the number of Syrian refugees it can assist through an innovative electronic voucher system in Turkey, which hosts the largest number of asylum-seekers fleeing fighting in neighbouring Syria.
WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva today that in January, her agency had been able to assist 220,000 refugees in 20 camps throughout Turkey, but that last month, it had been forced to reduce that number to 154,000, after having to withdraw from 9 camps.
Ms. Byrs said predicting donation amounts is a “real challenge” as it is necessary to know those amounts before informing refugees outside of camps that WFP would launch assistance, but knowing that WFP would require $9 million each month for its assistance to Syrian refugees, a funding shortfall of $71 million in donations is being projected for all of 2015.
Since 2011, WFP has been providing food assistance to the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in Turkey through an innovative electronic voucher (e-food card) system, Ms. Byrs said, adding that the system has made it possible for refugees to buy their food in shops like anybody else.
“Unfortunately,” she explained, “due to a critical shortage of funding, WFP is unable to provide assistance at the same levels as before.”
Ms. Byrs emphasized how important that system is for refugees, saying that Turkey has welcomed the highest number of Syrian refugees, estimated at 1.7 million in 20 camps across the country.
Turkey had already spent $4.5 billion to protect and assist the refugees since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, and that since 2011, she said, WFP had injected almost $700 million into the Turkish economy through its e-food card program and large-scale food purchases.
WFP’s Syria Crisis emergency response, which provides life-saving food assistance to more than four million Syrians who have been displaced across all 14 governorates of Syria in addition to at least two million Syrian refugees in the Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, in addition to Turkey. Inside Syria, WFP provides food rations, while refugees in the neighbouring countries primarily receive assistance through WFP’s electronic food vouchers programme that allows them to buy the food they need from local shops.