The United Nations refugee agency -UNHCR- has said that despite generous pledges, humanitarian programs in support of Syrian refugee and their host communities are quickly running out of resources with the situation in Lebanon and Jordan being at “most dramatic” where “a number of direct cash assistance activities could dry up in less than four weeks.”
A spokesperson for internationak refugee aid agency, Andrej Mahecic, told reporters in Geneva Tuesday that urgent fund is needed to continue the monthly cash assistance programs in Lebanon and Jordan put in place to assist Syrian refugees living there. He said without this vital income, many Syrian refugees “would prefer to go back to Syria to die.”
Mahecic said “midway through this year, the overall inter agency appeal which amounts to about 4.6 billion dollars to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees across the Middle East and North Africa is only 18 percent funded.”
He also said that “given the challenges of responding to humanitarian needs at such a scale and across the entire region, early and adequate contributions are vital to ensure timely and planned delivery of refugee protection and aid programmes.”
Cash programming expanded in response to the Iraqi refugee crisis in 2007 and increased during the recent Syria crisis. According to UNHCR, 1.8 million people in the region received up to $355 million in cash-based aid in 2016. In Jordan, UNHCR has been providing cash to high vulnerability Syrian refugees in urban areas since 2012.
The Jordan programme, which provides cash mainly through the use of iris scans at ATMs linked to UNHCR’s pioneering biometric registration system, includes extra support for refugees to get health care, buy fuel and clothes. According to the UN Refugee Agency, the cash advance system has reduced fraud and provides refugees with a choice of what to buy without the stigma of distribution queues for humanitarian aid items.
Mr. Mahecic said “refugees tell our staff that UNHCR monthly cash support means a meal a day, a better roof, their dignity and now they fear of losing everything. Many say they would prefer to go back to Syria to die if they stop receiving this assistance. For every third family in the cash assistance programme in Jordan this is their sole source of income, making them particularly vulnerable to any cuts.”
In Lebanon, UNHCR urgently needs USD 116 million that will provide lifeline multipurpose cash for 30,000 Syrian refugee families, winter cash assistance for two months for another 174,000 families and protection cash assistance for 1,500 refugee households to help them overcome hardships. Meanwhile in Jordan, UNHCR requires USD 71 million to provide mostly cash assistance for 30,000 Syrian refugee families, along with support to the estimated 60,000 Syrians stranded at the Syria Jordan border.
Mahecic said “Syrian refugees in Lebanon, 70 percent of whom are living under the national poverty line say that without this lifeline, they don’t know how they will manage to survive. For many, cash assistance is the only means of buying medicine for sick family members and paying off their bills and fast accumulating debts.”
More than five million Syrians live as refugees in neighbouring countries and another 6.3 million are displaced inside Syria. This makes Syrians the largest refugee group in then world.