Where there is war there is hunger. This holds true with the conflict now taking place in Syria. The UN World Food Programme, the largest food aid organization, is currently feeding 1.5 million Syrians displaced within their own country.
Hundreds of thousands of other Syrians who fled to neighboring Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan are also receiving aid. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says, “conditions in Syria continue to deteriorate as the Assad regime relentlessly wages war on its own people.”
The longer the fighting continues, hunger will only intensify as the country’s regular food supply systems continue to break down. The World Food Programme, and its partner the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) are the lifeline for saving innocent Syrians from starvation.
destruction in Baba Amr, Homs (photo courtesy WFP/Laure Chadraoui)
Laure Chadraoui, a World Food Programme (WFP) officer, was just on a mission into Syria. She shares her experience in the war-torn country following interview.
You were just in the conflict areas of Syria and met with families. Can you tell us about the impact of this conflict on them to give readers an idea of life in a war zone?
During my recent mission to Syria, I visited Damascus, one area in Rural Damascus and Homs. Talking to displaced people, I saw how shocked they were from what had befallen their country. They still could not believe that this is happening to them. After more than a year and a half, many are in shock. During a door to door distribution of WFP food assistance by Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers in Homs, I saw a woman, in her early 20s, standing at the door of her house, or new shelter is a more accurate description, holding a one year old girl.
She did not ask for anything as I approached to talk to her. When I asked her where she came from, she was in tears before she could say: Khaldiyeh. Khaldieyeh, in the old city of Homs, has endured recently heavy fighting. She had only recently given birth and had to flee with her husband and her newborn baby. Her husband was not at home, she told me, he goes looking for someone to hire him as a daily worker, most of the time to no avail. What she receives from WFP is all she has got to feed her baby. She was not very comfortable telling her story, but her tears told most of it. I imagined, then, that many of these displaced people, lost members of their families, or their homes, or their livelihoods, or maybe all at once. Their lives are shattered. This woman, found a home, in a safe area in Homs, but the sound of explosions and fighting is clear, and she, like many others know it is probably not far from what they used to call “home.”
I met other WFP beneficiaries at public shelters, each family living in a room, that is now the kitchen and the bedroom and the playground. The mattresses lined up on top of each other to give space for the family to sit together is the common image that strikes you everywhere in those shelters. Sometimes more than one family share one room. I met a family with children and a baby no more than 4 months who has taken an empty and unfinished villa as her new shelter. The villa is still under construction, has no doors or windows. That was the best they could find. It looked like it was in the middle of nowhere. Their needs are huge from food to medical care and non-food items. The mother told me, she fled with only the clothes they were wearing. They were poor where she came from but had a roof over their head; we had a decent life and we were happy, she told me. However, it was a relief to see that our food is reaching them and in many ways saving their lives.
Are children at risk of physically and mentally damaging malnutrition in Syria and are there going to be enough food supplies and access to prevent this?