Saturday, 60 Minutes highlighted the critical and often dangerous work performed by two of these agencies—the World Food Program (WFP) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)—to help people both inside Syria and Syrian refugees in Jordan. The moving segment is an excellent reminder of the importance of UN advocates in the United States like you! Watch the full segment here.
Unfortunately, the UN’s humanitarian response capacity has been stretched to the limit over the past year. In addition to the crisis in Syria, UN agencies are also responding to emergencies in South Sudan, Iraq, the Central African Republic, and Ukraine, among other places. This has seriously strained the financial resources of these agencies, and WFP warned in September that it was quickly running out of funding to help Syrians in need.
Due to this budgetary shortfall, WFP announced Monday that it has been forced to suspend its food voucher program to more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, and Egypt. If new funding arrives in December, WFP will immediately resume assistance for refugees who use electronic vouchers to buy food in local shops. Since the start of this operation, WFP’s voucher program has injected about $800 million dollars into the economies of refugee hosting countries which border Syria.
As you may know, the U.S. is WFP’s largest donor and recently pledged an additional $135 million in aid for Syrians, but a significant gap in WFP’s budget remains. WFP requires a total of $64 million immediately to support Syrian refugees during December and the UN has been pressing other member states to join the U.S. in providing supplementary funding for these critical activities.