One of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, the Syria conflict is moving into its sixth year. From the onset, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been on the frontlines, at the borders and in the neighbouring countries doing whatever it takes to deliver food to the millions who need it. Read on to learn more about how we do it.
1) Humanitarian Convoys
WFP has joined over 130 humanitarian convoys inside Syria together with its partners and other UN agencies. These convoys cross check points and frontlines to deliver food and humanitarian relief to the hardest hit cities across the country.
Most recently, following the Munich Agreement in February, WFP and humanitarian partners have reached more people in besieged areas than at any other time since the beginning of the conflict, providing life-saving support including food and nutrition products to over 150,000 people who had been cut off from the outside world for months and in some cases years.
One of these towns, Moadamiyeh in Rural Damascus, had been cut off from the outside world for over a year and a half. WFP delivered enough food for the entire population of the town, offloading the food in the middle of the night and into the morning.
2) Distributing Food Rations
The crisis in Syria has caused massive population displacements away from conflict areas and into the neighbouring countries. Despite the enormous challenges in the last five years, WFP together with over 30 partners has provided a lifeline to around 4 million people every month inside the country.
The food rations WFP distributes contain staple food items like bulgur wheat, lentils, rice, wheat flour, canned foods, salt, sugar and cooking oil. Each ration provides enough food for a family of five for a month. WFP provides these food rations to the most severely affected people, including families living in schools, mosques and shelters for displaced people, or those who lost their jobs and livelihoods as a result of the war.
3) Cross-border Deliveries
Insecurity and access remain WFP’s largest challenges in Syria. Some parts of the country remain unreachable by road due to ongoing clashes on major transport routes. As such, WFP runs a regular cross-border operation through which it brings food into hard-to-reach and besieged areas in Syria through transport corridors across the Jordanian and Turkish borders.
Most of the food WFP brings into Syria through its cross-border convoys is distributed to families in Idleb, Rural Aleppo, Rural Dara’a, and Al Hassakeh governorates. It is also distributed to several other besieged areas that have been reached though crossline WFP convoys and joint UN convoys. Almost a quarter of the food WFP distributes every month in Syria is brought to families in need through cross-border convoys.
4) Electronic Food Vouchers
WFP supports 1.5 million of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees living in camps and communities in Syria’s neighbouring countries, through electronic food vouchers or e-cards. These e-cards are essentially pre-paid credit cards that are loaded each month to help refugees purchase their own food from local supermarkets. Through e-cards, WFP is both ensuring that refugees are receiving the food assistance they need, and providing a substantial boost to the local economies of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. E-cards are a win-win solution for everyone.
E-cards also provide the means and freedom to purchase a variety of ingredients for Syrian dishes, buying food items that are not usually included in traditional food rations, including fresh produce, dairy products, meat and chicken. This is particularly important for Syrian refugees as Syrians take great pride in the diversity of food they prepare for their families.
Since the start of the Syrian crisis five years ago, WFP has injected more than US$ 1.3 billion into the economies of neighbouring countries through its e-card programme.
5) WFP’s Iris Scan Payment System
WFP has reached another milestone in its use of technology and innovation to serve people in need. In Jordan, WFP has launched an innovative Iris Scan Payment System, which allows Syrian refugees living in camps to purchase food from local shops using just a scan of their eye instead of cash, vouchers or credit cards. The user simply looks into a lens that scans their iris, and deducts the value of their purchase from their credit.
This innovative system relies on the UN Refugee Agency’s biometric registration data of refugees, and works with WFP’s Jordanian partners – IrisGuard, the company that developed the iris scan platform, Jordan Ahli Bank and their counterpart Middle East Payment Systems (MEPS).