Thousands of Syrian refugees are being denied basic necessities in Turkey due to a lack of funding to both the state and the United Nations. A $71 million shortfall has forced the United Nations food agency to halt aid to at least nine Syrian refugee camps in Turkey, the agency announced Friday.
"Unfortunately, in February, we were forced to ask the Turkish government to take over assistance in nine camps where we could not continue providing aid because we lack funds," World Food Program (WFP) spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said at a press conference in Geneva.
The Turkish government will be hard-pressed to provide for the camps as it has already been struggling with the refugee population. On Friday, 5,000 pharmacies in Istanbul agreed to stop providing Syrian refugees with medication, claiming the Turkish government had not followed through on its promise to cover medicinal expenses for refugees, according to Hurriyet Daily News.
“Our pharmacists have not gotten payment of the medicine they have provided to Syrian refugees for around 11 months now. They have decided to stop giving drugs to Syrians from now on,” Nurten Saydan, president of the Pharmacists’ Federation of Employers’ Organization told Hurriyet.
Over 3 million people have fled Syria to neighboring countries in the region since the start of the civil war in February 2011, and Turkey is home to roughly 1.7 million, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. In Turkey, hundreds of thousands of those are living in the 22 government-run refugee camps near the border with Syria. Others have dispersed and are trying to rebuild their lives in cities such as Istanbul.
WFP had previously been able to provide 220,000 refugees with pre-paid debit cards allowing them to purchase food in supermarkets. Last month, that number fell to 154,000, according to Agence France-Presse. The U.N. agency said it needed $9 million a month for food aid to those in need and has called on the international community to make donations as soon as possible.
Earlier this week the Japanese government contributed $15.39 million toward emergency food assistance for Syrian refugees.