Syrian refugees and local relief organisations in Jordan have warned of what they're calling a "humanitarian catastrophe" that may affect 229,000 refugees outside the camps who no longer receive cash support from the World Food Programme due to "lack of funds".
The global United Nations programme, which has been suffering from financial difficulties for the past year, has stopped providing daily food-vouchers to nearly 229,000 Syrian refugees living outside camps in Jordan, while maintaining support for nearly 211,000 refugees inside the camps.
According to the refugees: "the reduction has had a negative impact on food security for the majority of refugees, where many of them have resorted to harsh measures such as taking their children out of school to send them to work and being forced to borrow large sums of money."
The measures have affected Nasser Al-Zoubi, who supports a family of nine individuals inside the Zaatari refugee camp. Al-Zoubi used to be paid 220 Jordanian dinars ($310) per month, which has now been reduced to 70 dinars ($98). But Al-Zoubi's situation is still considered better than that of many other families outside the camps who have stopped receiving food aid entirely.
Zayed Hammad, the President of the Holy Book and Sunna relief agency, has warned in an interview with Arabi 21 newspaper of "a tragedy and a real disaster which the Syrian refugees in Jordan will face during the coming period." Hammad has called on European countries and Arab and Islamic states "to bear their humanitarian responsibilities and to support the World Food Programme in different places where Syrian refugees exist."
"Local relief associations cannot cover for the support provided by the global food programme, which used to spend almost $35 million a month on the refugee programme; this number is way beyond the capacity of the relief associations. However, we seek to help the most needy families and offer them any simple support," he added.
Hammad believes that "European support for the World Food Programme had stopped due to "political reasons" and that fact that "Europe has received thousands of Syrian refugees, with many EU countries turning into host countries."
The media spokesperson for the World Food Programme, Abeer Etefa, confirmed the fact that the programme's decision to stop providing aid is not a temporary one, and is due to a chronic lack funding. "The decision to stop the support is not a political decision, but came as a result of weak support for the programme," she said.
"We did not have a choice and we had to reconsider the list of refugees in the host countries and to focus on the poorest families. We acknowledge that everyone needs help, but in the case of a lack of funds, we have to continue to support families that need help the most, especially inside the camps where there are no jobs for the refugees," Etefa explained.
The World Food Programme has appealed to donor countries "to donate the necessary support to continue providing assistance to refugees, with an amount estimated at $39 million to cover the programme's needs in Jordan alone over the next four months."
The estimated number of Syrian refugees in the camps is 211,000, while the Jordanian government says the number of those outside the camps has reached 1.3 million.