UN: 14 December 2007 – In response to recent studies showing that Iraqi refugees living in neighbouring countries are running out of money, the UN refugee agency is set to issue ATM cards to 7,000 of the most needy and vulnerable families living in Syria.
More than 4.5 million Iraqis are currently uprooted – 2.4 million inside Iraq and nearly 2.2 million outside – most of them in Syria and Jordan, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
This Sunday, UNHCR will start providing the ATM cards, providing each family with between $100 and $200 per month.
“The families have been interviewed by community services staff and identified as being in urgent need of financial assistance,” UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva. “They include women at risk, families with working children and refugees with chronic illnesses.”
The 7,000 families will also receive food aid from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and UNHCR.
Recent studies by the agency and IPSOS Market Research show that Iraqi refugees in Syria – host to more than 1.4 million Iraqi refugees – are running out of finances. Some 33 per cent of those surveyed said their financial resources will last for three months or less, while 24 per cent are relying on remittances from relatives living abroad.
Similar studies conducted in Lebanon and Jordan revealed that Iraqi refugees living there shared some of the same difficulties. For example, the majority of the 450,000-500,000 Iraqis living Jordan are surviving on savings or receive financial transfers. “This makes a large segment of Iraqis in Jordan at risk of becoming vulnerable with the depletion of their savings,” Ms. Pagonis noted.
The survey also showed a high prevalence of chronic diseases among Iraqi refugees living in these countries, as well as significant drop-out rates for children and difficulties related to refugee protection.