At the start of December the WFP was forced to suspend its food voucher programme for refugees fleeing Syria’s four-year civil war, and launched a fundraising drive to raise US$64m. In total it raised more than US$88m, with the Saudi Arabian donation by far the biggest single sum contributed.
“These funds will go immediately to help people facing hunger and an uncertain future. We are extremely grateful for this assistance, which comes at a crucial moment for these refugees – all of whom have fled protracted conflict. The compassion and commitment shown by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud will help save the refugees, especially children, from the pain and debilitating effects of hunger,” said WFP executive director Ertharin Cousin.
Governments step up
Other significant donors included Norway, which contributed US$10.2m, the Netherlands with US$7.5m, the European Union with US$6.2m, Germany with US$5.4m, and Switzerland with US$2.1m. The only other Middle Eastern country to be listed by the WFP as a substantial donor to this round of funding was Qatar, which donated US$2m, slightly above the US$1.8m from 14,000 private donors and organisations around the world.
“We are extremely grateful for this extraordinary support, which means that by next week, Syrian refugees in five neighbouring countries will be able to use their electronic vouchers again to buy food for their families from local shops,” said Cousin.
“I take this opportunity to thank all of our donors who during the year have provided the money to ensure that Syrian refugees have access to food. As this increasingly ‘hand-to-mouth’ operation moves into winter, we are counting on our donors not to lose sight of the needs of these vulnerable people. We are already focused on January, when the needs will be just as great,” she added.
Syrian harvests hit
The WFP’s fundraising drive came as its sister body the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) revealed 2014 has been a bumper year for cereal crops – but highlighted the contrasting state of agriculture in Syria. Throughout the year the FAO has been highlighting the increasingly dire state of Syrian agriculture, with its worst predictions now fulfilled.
“The situation in Syria is particularly urgent, as a weak harvest is exacerbating strains due to worsening civil conflict. An estimated 6.8 million people – some refugees in neighbouring countries – are facing severe food insecurity. FAO reports a notable production decline for the 2014 crop, due to abandoned land, scarce labour, damaged power stations and canals as well as drought conditions,” said an FAO report released last week.