Syria’s seven-year conflict continues to fuel the world’s largest refugee crisis, with more than 5.6 million people forced into prolonged exile in neighboring countries. Each year sees families driven deeper into penury, with the vast majority of refugees in Jordan and Lebanon now living below the poverty line and unable to meet their basic needs.
In Lebanon, where 58 per cent of the nearly one million registered Syrian refugees live in extreme poverty on less than US$2.90 per day, cash assistance helps to support some 33,000 of the worst-off families.
Now hundreds of thousands of impoverished Syrian refugee families in the Middle East risk losing their main financial lifeline, due to expire from May, unless urgently needed additional resources are found to plug a US$270 million funding shortfall.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, currently provides much-needed cash assistance to the most vulnerable families – mainly in Jordan and Lebanon – to help them cover the cost of shelter, heating, healthcare and other essentials. But with current funding for the program set to run out from May onwards, almost a million people face losing this vital assistance.
The warning comes ahead of a major EU and UN donor conference in Brussels on April 24 and 25, aimed at securing fresh funding pledges to support Syrians and the main refugee hosting countries. Total requirements for 2018 are set at US$5.6 billion, but as of the end of March the UN appeal was only 27 per cent funded.
Cash assistance is a key element in UNHCR’s response to the crisis. By enabling refugees to prioritize spending on their most pressing needs, it offers greater dignity and freedom of choice while also providing a boost to the local economies in areas shouldering the burden of hosting large numbers of refugees.