Kuwait pledges $8m for Syrian refugees as winter nears

UNHCR says aid will help 25,000 displaced families in Lebanon as they brace for the winter months

The Gulf state of Kuwait has pledged almost $8m to help vulnerable Syrian refugees endure another harsh winter in Lebanon, the UN’s refugee agency said Monday.

The donation to UNHCR will be used to offer monthly cash transfers to some 25,000 families, delivered through ATM cards. Refugees can spend the funds on items essential for the coming season, such as warm clothes, fuel and extra food.

“With the winter season fast approaching, this contribution will significantly support thousands of Syrian refugee families as they brace for the cold months ahead,” said Filippo Grandi, UN high commissioner for refugees.

More than 1 million Syrians are facing another winter as refugees in Lebanon. For some, it is their sixth in a row, the result of a war that has driven 4.8 million Syrians across borders into neighbouring Arab states and, for others, on to Europe.

The UN is facing a funding gap this year of some $2bn – or 46 per cent – of funds required to meet the basic needs of refugees under its mandate.

A funding crunch forced the UN’s food agency (WFP) to halve the monthly allowance it gave to refugees in Lebanon – to $13.50 per person – last year. WFP’s voucher programme enables families to buy and prepare the foods they want.

The latest contribution of $7.96m from Kuwait adds to its total donations of close to $350m to UNHCR since 2013. Kuwait remains the agency’s largest donor from the Middle East and North Africa.

The Gulf state has co-hosted three donor conferences to elicit much-needed funds for displaced Syrians, including a fundraiser in London in February, which saw more than $12bn pledged for 2016 and future years – the largest amount raised in a single day for the humanitarian crisis. Kuwait pledged $300m for the Syria humanitarian response over the next three years.

Seven months on from the conference, some donors are delivering beyond their commitments while others are still to deliver on their full pledge, according to the UN.