Wed, 08 Feb 2023

© Provided by Xinhua

BEIRUT, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Syrian refugee Jamal Abu Lutfi and his family gathered around an old wood-burning stove in their tent in Lebanon's Bekaa town of Saadnayel, worrying about their future after receiving a gloomy text message from the United Nations (UN).

The message informed them about the UN's plan to halt its monthly financial assistance from the beginning of 2023.

"We were shocked by this sudden and disappointing decision, which will cause embarrassment and hardship for my family... we will simply not be able to secure our urgent needs in light of the insane rise in prices," Abu Lutfi told Xinhua.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) announced their plan in November to stop their monthly financial assistance for 35,000 out of 269,000 displaced Syrian families starting from January 2023.

Dalal Abu Huwaili, another Syrian refugee, said the decision might not motivate the displaced to return to their homeland but increase their distress and misery.

"Most of the displaced prefer to return to their homeland when a comprehensive political solution is reached in Syria, and the war is over. Only then can we have a safe environment to repair our houses and live peacefully," she said.

Ahmad al-Suwaiqi, a sergeant at the displaced camp of Marj al-Khoukh in the southern town of Marjeyoun, told Xinhua that the messages sent by the UN sparked a wave of panic among refugees as the vast majority depend on financial aid for their livelihood.

© Provided by Xinhua

Lisa Abou Khaled, a spokeswoman for UNHCR, told Xinhua that the limited resources of donor countries forced the UNHCR and WFP to limit their financial support to vulnerable and needy displaced families.

She noted that the 35,000 families being cut off the assistance could benefit from other support programs that offer winter assistance for heating.

On October 26, Lebanon resumed its plan to facilitate the voluntary return of displaced Syrians to their homeland, which was suspended in 2019 due to COVID-19.

Lebanon is hosting the largest number of refugees per capita, with the government estimating around 2 million Syrian refugees living in the country.

Lebanese and Syrian authorities had previously asked international organizations to offer financial assistance to Syrian refugees upon their return to Syria instead of supporting them inside Lebanon, which would accelerate their return to their homeland.

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