09 Dec 2014
On 1 December, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) announced it had been forced to suspend a critical food aid scheme to Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, due to a funding crisis. The programme gave more than 1.7 million refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt vouchers to buy food. Without this assistance, many families would go hungry this winter, according to the WFP. More than 3.2 million people have fled Syria after the beginning of the war and 7.6 million people are internally displaced. Caritas organisations are actively working in solidarity with refugees and their families to grant them first aid packages after they were forced to leave their home country and households. For people already struggling to survive the harsh winter in the region, the consequences of halting such assistance would be devastating. According to Caritas Lebanon refugee centre, this step will lead to a dramatic increase in the tension between the two communities, as the refugees won’t find a way to cover their nutrition needs. “The suspension of operations will have destructive impact on the social cohesion that international and local organisations are trying to build, in addition to medical problems that refugees might face because of bad nutrition. Local and international organisations should deeply consider a contingency plan in order to respond immediately in case of the suspension,” says Hessen Sayah, project manager for Syrian refugees at the refugee centre. Caritas Europa calls on EU institutions to react in order to solve this alarming situation. As the EU has been a leader in responding to the Syrian crisis, e.g. by its 150€ million in humanitarian aid for Syria in 2014, funding has mostly been aimed at addressing the urgent needs of the most affected people in Syria and neighbouring countries, notably via the expansion of healthcare and water supply services. In this specific case we call for the need to redirect part of the funding to an “emergency in the emergency”, given that a lack of food would be a huge menace to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The EU and its Member States cannot turn a blind eye to this situation. Caritas Europa calls on all parties to make an additional effort against this huge threat to the poorest and most vulnerable families in the region.