Syrian refugees in Egypt face ‘catastrophe’ after WFP aid cut
A Syrian refugee girl makes tea inside a caravan at the Al Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria - REUTERS

CAIRO: The value of the World Food Program (WFP) food aid offered monthly to the Syrian refugees “will definitely be cut because the fund is insufficient,” Abeer Etefa, director of the WFP office in Cairo, told The Cairo Post Wednesday.

“The deduction amount, expected to be around 30 percent, will be finalized next Sunday,” she said, adding that the Program needs U.S. $ 32 million weekly to aid the Syrian refugees in the neighboring countries along with the displaced people within Syria.

Since 2011, the WFP has distributed food aid vouchers among the Syrian refugees. The vouchers provide the basic commodities including rice, butter, sesame, sugar and milk to be obtained from certain hyper market.

However, some of the Syrian refugees in Egypt voiced their concern over the deduction of the WFP’s vouchers, which worth 200 EGP ($28) per person per month, describing it as “catastrophe.”

“If the aid value was cut, it will be a catastrophe. Now, it is good but not sufficient to survive till the end of the month” said Ahmed Omar Rehan, a Syrian refugee in Egypt, where more than 90,000 registered Syrian refugees live and depend on the monthly aid vouchers.

“Most of Syrian people here depend on the aid to purchase the milk for their kids,” added Rehan, who works a taxi driver.

Thanks to his two sons helping him to earn living, Rehan who fled to Egypt in May 2, 2013, said that if the voucher value decreased, his family will hopefully cope with the “unpleasant situation.”

Rehan, along with his two teenage sons, live in an apartment with a 1,200 EGP monthly rent. The sons dropped their education to help in earning their livings. The Eldest son, 19, is a painter and the other, 16, works in a Syrian restaurant in Cairo.

Food vouchers are distributed through a number of WFP headquarters in several Egyptian cities of high number of refugees, including Obour city north of Cairo, 6 October City south of Giza, Alexandria, Damietta, Mansoura and Marsa Matrouh, the WFP Cairo office told The Cairo Post on Dec. 4.

“In case the aid decreased, it would be a catastrophe because I buy the milk for my children,” said H.K, another refugee who lives with her mother-in-law, five relatives and her “sick” husband in an apartment in Cairo’s northern district of al-Obour.

She said that the aid is hardly enough to cover the family’s very basic needs and expenses but at the same time not covering expenses of abrupt issues, including medical treatment.

“I cannot purchase the egg for my children,” she said.

“My daughter should undergo a tonsillectomy surgery but she is worried as a doctor has operated an inappropriate vertebral column surgery for my husband and he was not able to work for a year,” H.K added.

Zakyia Halaby, Syrian mother of three children who fled to Egypt following the civil conflict in her hometown in Syria, told The Cairo Post that the aid is not sufficient, adding that her family owes debts worth up to 63,000 EGP and that her husband works in a lathe workshop in Cairo.

Halaby, who lives in an apartment in Cairo’s northern district of 10th of Ramadan said,:“We have also other responsibilities as we should pay for the education and housing,” adding that “I pay 150 EGP per month per child to receive education in a Syrian school in Cairo because my daughters have experienced learning difficulties in Egyptian schools due to the difference between the Egyptian and the Syrian dialects.”

At the End of November, the WFP sent short messages to the Syrian Refugees saying “due to the current crisis in the WFP fund, which has been notified previously, we are sorry to inform you that we will not provide the enough aid for the next month. Also the value of the food aid vouchers will be decreased temporarily for all beneficiaries. No one of the current beneficiaries will be excluded. The Program will continue its efforts to get the required funding.”

The WFP announced on December 1 that the program could suspend the aid due to fund shortage, asking for the help of donor countries and partners to assist in providing food vouchers for 1.7 million Syrian refuges in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.

“A suspension of WFP food assistance will endanger the health and safety of these refugees and will potentially cause further tensions, instability and insecurity in the neighboring host countries,” WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said in a press statement.

After launching three-day fundraising campaign, the WFP has collected $88.4 million as of Dec. 10, exceeding the required $64 million for December; the collected funds will allow the “WFP to cover some of the refugees’ alimental needs in January,” said Cousin in a statement on Dec. 10.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) receives between 700 and 1,000 daily requests submitted by Syrian refugees to renew their residencies in order to be able to receive the UN’s aid, UNHCR’ official told the Cairo Post Monday. Each registered refugee should have an “aid card” to receive the UN aid, the official said, adding that the cards have to be renewed every 18 months.

Up to Dec. 1, 2014, there are 49,856 families of 137,504 Syrian refugees who are officially registered in Egypt since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, according to UNHCR.

The total amount of financial aid for Syrian Refugees in Egypt has reached nearly $ 31.2 million so far this year, according to UNHCR figures.

Over the past three years, the number of Syrian refugees exceeded 3 million while 6.5 million others have been displaced within Syria, said the UNHCR in a statement in August 2014.

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