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Vouchers and phones stop families going hungry in Syria

Inside a shop in Syria. Photo: Concern Worldwide.
Inside a shop in Syria. Photo: Concern Worldwide.
News2 August 2016Craig Burnett

In war-ravaged northern Syria, we’re using vouchers and mobile phones to make sure people have the food they need.

The nature of Syria’s conflict means that even away from the front lines, there is danger from bombs and suicide attacks. After five years of war, people are finding it hard to put food on the table for their families. This violence and disruption is the reason we are working in Syria. It is the reason that right now, more than 13 million people inside the country need urgent help to get essentials like food, water and medicine.

Voucher system feeds households

In the past, we have trucked food into Northern Syria. But earlier this year the border was closed due to increased fighting inside Syria, making it impossible to send lorries along this vital route. Faced with this potentially crical obstacle, our team came up with a new plan to provide food for the communities caught up in the violence. With support from US Aid, we have started supplying paper food vouchers to the most vulnerable. 

The food vouchers are provided to the familes, elderly people or people with disabiltiies and can be redeemed at local shops. Shopkeepers scan the vouchers with their phones, and are later paid for the goods by us. 

Our programme manager explains:

It took us quite a long time to convince shopkeepers to take part in the project, which means giving people credit. Shopkeepers get paid when the vouchers are returned to us. We plan to be reaching 5,000 households with £50 a month by August. This will help those households meet their basic living needs.

We’ve got as many shopkeepers as possible taking part in the scheme – this cuts the risk of a few raising their prices and exploiting the voucher holders. The fact the vouchers can be ‘tracked’ electronically also helps protect against misuse.

More ways we are helping in Syria

While this scheme has been highly successful in northern Syria, we are still buying and distributing food to families in need in more rural areas. And the breath of our work in Syria stretches beyond food supply. We’re also working to pipe drinking water, and cut the threat of disease by repairing sewage systems and cleaning up rubbish. We’re also supporting thousands of refugees from the conflict who have fled to Turkey and Lebanon. The needs in Syria remain huge and Concern is committed to overcoming obstacles to ensure we reach the people who need our support the most.

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