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With little money for rent or food, Syrian refugees in the Middle East often face hard choices about their children's education. (Dominik Asbach — Jesuit Refugee Service)

(Rome) July 15, 2015 — Planned cuts to food aid for refugees in the Middle East will harm families who are already living on the edge, warns Jesuit Refugee Service. The World Food Programme (WFP) recently announced that in August, due to lack of funding, they will no longer provide food aid to many Syrian refugees living in Jordan. WFP has also had to reduce the value of food vouchers given to Syrian refugees in nearby Lebanon. 

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled war-torn Syria for neighboring Middle Eastern countries. In Jordan, almost half a million Syrian refugees live in cities and towns rather than in the country's official refugee camps. With support from international donors, WFP was previously able to give food aid to 440,000 Syrian urban refugees in Jordan, but that funding has run out. Refugees who need food assistance may face a situation where they must relocate to the camps. 

"Cutting food aid could force urban refugees to make some terrible choices, like sacrificing crucial medication or putting young children to work instead of sending them to school this fall," said , JRS International Director Peter Balleis S.J. "We implore the international community not to forget these vulnerable people." 

"The situation of the urban refugees is critical," said Fr. Bernard Hyacinth Arputhasamy S.J., Director of JRS Jordan. "Resources and services outside the refugee camps have been exhausted." JRS Jordan teams have talked to refugees who scour the trash for food and suffer from dizziness due to hunger. 

JRS Jordan currently provides cash assistance to the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in the country. JRS teams visit refugees' homes to listen to families and understand what they need most. Families use the JRS cash grant for rent, food, health care or other urgent priorities. In Lebanon, JRS provides food baskets, runs education projects, and offers other services to Syrian refugees. Experts fear that without food aid, refugees might go deeper into debt, take on more high-risk jobs, or turn to begging. 

JRS Jordan hopes to expand its work in Jordan to meet the growing needs of out-of-camp refugees, most of whom are not legally allowed to work in their host country. JRS serves Sudanese, Somali, and Iraqi refugees as well as the huge Syrian population.  

"JRS calls for governments to provide immediate short-term funding so that WFP will not have to withdraw this crucial aid," said Fr Balleis. "And we ask governments to work together to find a longer-term solution that will not let Syrian refugees go hungry." 

"This food cut is the latest chapter in the ongoing plight of urban refugees," says Fr Arputhasamy. "They are being pushed further into frustration and despair." 

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