On Tuesday, the World Food Programme (WFP) announced that it would not be able to provide assistance to over one million Syrians who are going hungry.
The agency emphasized that, while it has been distributing food aid to around 1.5 million people in Syria each month, a total of 2.5 million need assistance.
Some of the key reasons why such a large number of people in need will not be receiving help include the increased lack of security in the country and the WFP’s inability to use the Syrian port of Tartous for its shipments, which has forced it to use the Lebanese port of Beirut. The WFP has temporarily pulled its staff out of the cities of Homs, Aleppo, Tartous and Qamisly, as a result of growing insecurity in these areas. In late 2012, there was a sharp rise in the number of attacks on WFP aid trucks.
At the same time, the UN agency’s main partner, the Syrian Arab Red Cross is overstretched and cannot further expand its operations, given the fact that only a few other aid agencies are authorized to distribute aid and many of them currently lack staff, fuel or other materials.
According to a recent joint rapid food security assessment conducted by the WFP, FAO and the Syrian government, the civil war has had a significant negative impact on families’ livelihoods across Syria, with around 3 million people needing food, crop and livestock assistance during the upcoming year. In areas affected by fighting, access to food, water, electricity and medical supplies has been interrupted, while a growing unemployment rate as well as soaring food and fuel prices further worsened the situation.
In the food basket it distributes monthly, the WFP includes various basic food commodities, such as cereals, oil, sugar, canned meat, which ensure two-thirds of the recipients’ daily food requirements. WFP also includes Nutributter, a special product, which prevents micro-nutrient deterioration in children between six and 23 months of age.
With no end in sight for the civil war and with an increasing humanitarian problem in both Syria and refugee-hosting countries, the United Nations appealed to the members of the international community to contribute $1.5 billion to assist the growing numbers of Syrians in need. Only in the last month, the numbers of registered Syrian refugees rose from 500,000 to 600,000. The United Nations also estimated that over 60,000 people have thus far been killed during the civil war.
While many Syrians may be suffering in their country, numerous others experience similar problems in refugee camps in receiving countries. On January 8, 2013, a riot broke out at the Jordanian Zaatari camp, home to over 50,000 Syrians. Some of the refugees, frustrated by the fact that their tents were swept in the middle of the night by powerful winds and that torrential rains flooded the streets, attacked aid workers with sticks and stoned, injuring seven of them. Temperatures went below freezing and are expected to remain like that during the upcoming days. The refugees in Jordan and Turkey may have to brace themselves for even greater suffering, as both countries are likely to be hit by a major snowstorm.