WFP aims get better food to Syrian refugees and more cash into host nations' economies with voucher program

The World Food Programme is changing the way it feeds the more than 110,000 refugees from Syria who live in a sprawling camp in Jordan, hoping to improve the options for the displaced while also pumping money back into the local community.

For months, the WFP has given refugees living outside the vast Zaatari camp vouchers or cash to purchase food, but August was the first month that saw all 100,000-plus of the residents inside the camp receive vouchers.

The WFP said Tuesday that the vouchers, currently worth $34 per month, can be used to purchase food at shops set up inside the camp by local community organizations -- which bring previously rare fresh food items like milk and eggs into Zaatari.

According to the WFP, the benefit is mutual. The United Nations agency says the voucher program plunged $11 million into the Jordanian economy in August alone.

Anything the U.N. can do to help ease the burden on Jordan created by the influx of more than 400,000 Syrians fleeing the war in their home country across the border would likely be welcomed by Amman.

CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward reported in May that resentment was mounting in the Jordanian capital over the strain the refugee population was putting on the water and electricity supply in the country, which can barely support its own population.

Jordanian lawmaker Mustafa Hamarneh told Ward that, for the first time during the two-and-a-half year Syrian conflict, "we hear people in this country very loudly articulating views against opening our borders to receive more and more Syrian refugees."

The plan, according to the WFP, is for the long-standard method of feeding refugees at Zaatari with handouts of staples like lentils and pasta to be phased out as the value of the vouchers is increased proportionately.

"We are introducing the food vouchers in Zaatari camp gradually, to give the refugees the time to familiarize themselves with this new form of assistance," said Jonathan Campbell, the WFP's Emergency Coordinator in Jordan. "Over the coming weeks, we will start to increase the value of the voucher while reducing the food commodities until the camp is assisted entirely through food vouchers."

The U.N. said in September that a staggering 2 million Syrians have fled their country, seeking safety in border nations including Jordan.

According to the WFP, the voucher system has brought $153 million into the economies of Turkey, Lebanon Egypt and Iraq since the beginning of 2013.

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