The fighting in Syria between rebels and the government has claimed thousands of lives. Another tragedy is also fast emerging within the country: hunger and malnutrition.
Food supply systems have been disrupted by the conflict. The UN World Food Programme (WFP), the largest food aid organization, is responding to this emergency.
Abeer Etefa, the senior spokesperson from the WFP Middle East headquarters, provides us an update on the humanitarian crisis taking place now in Syria.
How many people are in need of food aid right now in Syria?
According to the latest Emergency Food Security and Nutrition Assessment conducted by WFP in 2010, prior to the unrest, 1.4 million people were considered to be food insecure in areas which have become conflict hotspots (Homs, Hama, rural Damascus, Daraa and Idleb). The concern is they now have become even more vulnerable. We are concerned that the longer the conflict continues, hunger will increase, and we estimate that 1.5 million people may potentially need food assistance.
File photo of WFP distribution of food in Syria (WFP/John Wreford)
How is WFP responding to the emergency?
WFP launched an emergency operation in December to cover the food needs of vulnerable people affected by the unrest in Syria. The project is currently underway until the end of 2012, in partnership with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and is targeting each month 100,000 beneficiaries living in areas that have been most negatively impacted. Our food assistance has so far reached rural Damascus, Hama, Homs, Dara’a, Quneitra, Lattakia, Tartous, Deir Ezzor, Idleb, and Al-Hasakeh in Syria, yet access remains challenging in some areas due to insecurity.
WFP is also launching a three-month Special Operation to support the above-mentioned project and further enable us to respond to operational disruptions in Syria as well as to respond in a timely manner to any openings in humanitarian space. Under the special operation, WFP is strengthening its logistics capacity within Syria to respond to any increases in needs including capacity building for WFP’s implementing partner, SARC, as well as filling any identified gaps for delivering assistance for humanitarian partners. We will also be increasing staffing capacity and prepositioning necessary equipment within Syria to ensure operations are conducted safely within the country.
On a contingency basis, we are also preparing for scaling up our humanitarian intervention in Syria as concerns grow about the deteriorating humanitarian situation.