In the wake of large budget cuts and conflict with the Islamic State, or ISIS, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is scaling back its food aid for more than 1.2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. These cuts will manifest themselves in the monthly food assistance vouchers that Syrian refugees receive. Normally valued at $19 per person, the vouchers will be reduced to $13.50 as of July.

Around 75% of Syrian refugee households in Lebanon are undergoing “some level of food insecurity,” according to a recent WFP survey. In addition, roughly 800,000 refugees in Lebanon qualify for food vouchers, and this scale-back is arriving right in the middle of Ramadan.

The WFP was banking on a ceasefire between ISIS and the Syrian government in order to let Syrian farmers harvest wheat stored in ISIS territory. No such ceasefire took place.

“That wheat that is harvested cannot be brought across lines of conflict into the area where it is needed most by people who are suffering now into a fifth year of this conflict,” WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin told the Associated Press.

A WFP press release issued earlier this month points out that the WFP’s refugee operations are currently 81% underfunded. The WFP is requesting $139 million in order to continue aiding refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Iraq through the summer.

“We are extremely concerned about the impact these cuts will have on refugees and the countries that host them,” WFP Regional Director Muhammad Hadi told the U.N. News Centre. “Families are taking extreme measures to cope such as pulling their children out of school, skipping meals and getting into debt to survive. The long-term effects of this could be devastating.”

– Alexander Jones

Sources: McGuirk, UN, Wood
Photo: The Guardian