DAMASCUS: The IKEA Foundation says it will donate Є1 for every LED light bulb sold in its stores in the next two months to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).
Currently the UNHCR is operating 13 flights from Damascus to Qamishli, close to the Turkish border in northern Syria, to deliver winter-related aid to 50,000 internally displaced refugees.
Initial flights carried "core relief items" (CRI) of medical supplies including medical supplies, a UNHCR armored vehicle, 5000 kitchen sets and two prefabricated warehouses.
"We have closely coordinated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to acquire the necessary clearances. We relied on their understanding of the dire humanitarian needs and on their cooperation in the delivery of our mandate and assistance particularly with the severe weather," said UNHCR representative Tarik Kurdi.
Many displaced people in the country are now suffering from respiratory illnesses due to the cold while having to burn plastic, garbage and other waste to keep warm.
In other parts of the country the agency says it has managed to deliver CRI to 38,500 people as part of a programme to deliver extra warm items to more than 1.1 million.
With many areas inaccessible by road because of insecurity or infrastructural destruction, "sometimes we are compelled to rely on the expensive and unsustainable option of chartering planes for airlifting," adds Kurdi. Meanwhile the UNHCR has recently received some ocean containers with fleece blankets and kitchen sets via the ports of Tartous and Lattakia in Syria. The agency's 400 staff in the country hope to distribute the aid to some of the 6.5 million displaced people and 45,000 refugees in the country.
The IKEA "Brighter Lives for Refugees" campaign will help to provide solar-powered street lights, indoor solar lanterns, and other renewable energy technologies in support of nearly 10.5 million refugees around the world, half of which are children.
"In 2013, over two million people became refugees – a near 20-year record. With each new humanitarian emergency, the support of the private sector becomes more vital and more urgent. This campaign represents a new, unique chapter in our relationship with the IKEA Foundation, UNHCR's largest private sector partner. Together, we hope to be able to transform the lives of many refugees," commented António Guterres, the UNHCR head.
The IKEA Foundation has committed €73 million to the refugee agency since 2010.