UNHCR begins distributing financial aid to Iraqi refugees in Syria

The UN refugee agency began Sunday distributing monthly financial aid to Iraqi refugees registered with its offices in Syria, the agency said. Laurens Jolles, acting representative at the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees, said the funds aim at "assisting refugees who are having a hard time meeting their needs." Jolles said the funds would be distributed throughout the next six months as a first stage. Another UNHCR official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a total of around US$820,000 would be distributed monthly by the end of 2008. The UNHCR said there are some 129,000 Iraqis registered with its offices up until Oct. 2007, but only 19,528 individuals are needy enough to be eligible for the monthly aid. It said the funds would be distributed only to female-headed households, elderly men or women, unaccompanied minors and disabled people. Syria is home to as many as 1.5 million Iraqis who took refuge there from the violence in their country.