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UNHCR to cut aid for Syrian refugees in Lebanon

(Zaman Al Wasl) The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Lebanon has sent text messages to hundreds of Syrian refugees living in Lebanon warning them that they will no longer be able to benefit from UNHCR’s monthly food allowance from the beginning of October.

Zaman al-Wasl obtained a copy of the UNHCR message, and it stated the following, “Applicant file number (---) on September 5, 2017, WFP will fill your card with 27 US Dollars per person. We regret to inform you that October will be the last month you can benefit from WFP assistance because you are no longer eligible for food aid.”

Speaking to several Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Zaman al-Wasl documented their reactions to this news. During its investigations, Zaman al-Wasl found that UNHCR had randomly targeted some Syrian refugees living in refugee camps in Lebanon and had not sent the message to all those registered with the agency. 

According to Zaman Al Wasl’s reporter in Lebanon, refugees are in a state of panic due to this news and this arbitrary action. The news comes to exacerbates the suffering of thousands of Syrian families who are dependent on the WFP allowance provided by UNHCR. The news threatens thousands of families with 
hunger and poverty in the absence of any sources of income or subsistence. 

Maha Mohammad Tarfa, 46, was one of the refugees who received the message. 

Based on the message, she will be excluded from the program after October. She expressed her sadness, disappointment and fear of an unknown future that awaits her and her family.

“How will I live? Where will I find out what will help me feed my family after they separated me?” told Zaman al-Wasl.

Abu Mas'ud al-Muslamani, an activist and supervisor of the Syrian camps in Arsal, commented on the news, “We regret the arrival of messages including the termination of providing the aid via the red cards to a large number of beneficiaries.”

“We reject this strategy, which indicates that there is increasing pressure on us to give in to the reconciliations that are being communicated, and we request clarification to know the reasons for this improper conduct from an organization that supposedly operates on purely humanitarian grounds.”

According to a survey conducted by UNHCR last March, more than one million Syrian refugees are registered with UNHCR, i.e. around 20% of the population of Lebanon. The majority of them live in camps, and wooden caravans and a small proportion live in homes equipped by the Commission which they rent from the Commission. 

Recently, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations involved in the Syrian refugee crisis appealed for 4.69 billion US Dollars to assist Syrian refugees in the region. Lebanon received 2 billion US Dollars, the largest share of this fund, which it argued it would distribute across several sectors including healthcare, food security, education, protection and shelter.

Activists responded to the news by launching a campaign on social media against the cancellation of the WFP aid provision. The campaign entitled “No to cutting off UN assistance to Syrians in Lebanon,” comes as activists fear the negative consequences cancelling this assistance will have on thousands of Syrian families. 
Meanwhile, Syrian refugees in Lebanon remain in a state of fear, panic and anxiety culminating in the sound of their phone ringing to indicate they received a new message.

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