UN Resumes Food Aid For Syrian Refugees After Raising More Funds

A Syrian Kurdish refugee child from the Kobani area walks with a bicycle at a camp in Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border Tuesd
A Syrian Kurdish refugee child from the Kobani area walks with a bicycle at a camp in Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, and its surrounding areas, has been under assault by extremists of the Islamic State group since mid-September and is being defended by Kurdish fighters. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

(Updates with quotes, detail)

By Chris Arsenault

ROME, Dec 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The United Nations will resume food aid to Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, following a campaign to raise funds for a halted program offering food vouchers, the World Food Program (WFP) announced on Tuesday.

About 1.7 million refugees in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt will have their electronic food vouchers topped up by mid-December, so they can purchase food in local shops.

The announcement came after a campaign by the WFP seeking funds to cover a $64 million shortfall which had forced the agency to suspend the program at the beginning of December.

"There was jubilation among the refugees after the announcement," WFP spokeswoman Abeer Etefa told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Syrians facing the winter cold will again be able to feed their families, she said, although there is concern among the refugees about what will happen at the end of January, when the current funding dries up.

The WFP has raised $80 million from private individuals, countries and companies thanks to a social media campaign.

"This outpouring of support in such a short time is unprecedented," WFP executive director Ertharin Cousin said in a statement.

"We're especially grateful to the many individual members of the public who reached into their own pockets to send whatever they could to help Syrian refugees who have lost everything."

More than 4 million people internally displaced inside Syria are receiving food packages, including cooking oil, lentils and rice, Etefa said. Refugees in neighboring states are given electronic vouchers.

"The Syria emergency has been the largest use of this voucher program ever," Etefa said.

Displaced Syrians tend to live in the poorest areas of Jordan, Lebanon and other neighboring states, she said. The electronic cash helps stimulate local economies, easing tensions between the refugees and their hosts.

In Lebanon alone, 350 local merchants accept the electronic vouchers, while Jordanian supermarkets have set up branches in that country's large refugee camps to benefit from the program. (Reporting By Chris Arsenault; Editing by Ros Russell)

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