Could You Eat on $13.50 a Month?

Life is about to get measurably more difficult for hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Because of a funding shortfall, the World Food Program is forced to reduce by half the amount of food assistance it provides to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees living outside of refugee camps.

Most Syrian refugees in Lebanon are not in camps. Rather, they are mixed in with the local population. But unlike the local population, they have far less access to work and school. So, they rely on assistance from international humanitarian groups, this includes food assistance from the WFP in the form of e-cards.

These are essentially debit cards that the WFP and the Mastercard Foundation debuted in in Lebanon two years ago to replace direct assistance and paper vouchers.  Each month, the WFP loads $27 per person onto these cards, which can be used in local shops to purchase food and other essential items. This gets food efficiently into the mouths of people who need it the most, and has the added benefit of propping up local economies, which are often under strain by the influx of refugees.

$27 is obviously not a lot of money. And as of this month when refugees go to top up their cards, only $13.50 will be loaded back on.

WFP’s funding crisis is region-wide. It warns that if it doesn’t immediately receive funds by the end of August, it iwill have to cut assistance to 440,000 refugees living outside of camps in Jordan. And if donors don’t contribute $139 million by September, there will be huge, region wide food assistance cuts for Syrian refugees.

This is clearly a humanitarian disaster. There are 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, meaning that about 1 in every 5 people in Lebanon today is a Syrian refugee.  In Jordan, there are about 600,000 refugees, meaning about one in every thirteen people in Jordan is a Syrian refugee. Most of these refugees and are mixed in among the local population, with little access to work. They need all the social assistance they can get, but right now, the international community is turning its backs on these refugees.