BACK in Syria food was cheap, remembers Maya, as she sits cross-legged in the small flat she shares with her husband, their five children and another couple in Amman, Jordan’s capital. When she first arrived here, she had to cut back. But now, with her husband working and 20 dinars ($28) a month from the World Food Programme (WFP), a UN agency, she can buy the children a treat like fish or chicken.

Scattered across Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan are 4.4m registered Syrian refugees, 90% of whom, like Maya, live outside formal refugee camps. This makes it a logistical nightmare to get the traditional food aid to them—sacks of rice and pulses. The WFP, the world’s largest food-aid provider, has adapted: a decade ago, it doled out aid only in kind. Now just over a quarter of its aid globally is cash-based. Every month Maya gets a text message alerting her that her special debit card, which she can use only to buy food, has been topped up. The WFP reaches around 1.1m refugees like this in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

This week saw the launch in neighbouring Turkey of the largest-ever humanitarian-aid project financed by the EU: a whopping €348m...Continue reading