It was just several years ago that Syria was helping refugees from the fighting in Iraq. Now it is Syrians taking refuge in Iraq and other countries as the war between rebels and President Assad’s forces continues.
Victoria Nuland, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, said this week, “For nearly two years, the Assad regime has brutalized its own people…Assad has lost all legitimacy and must step aside to enable a political solution and a democratic transition that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people.”
Syrians are fleeing daily to Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan. Not only do they have to fight hunger but also cold weather.
Um Raed, a mother who recently arrived at Zaatari camp in Jordan, said, “It’s cold, unbelievably cold. My son has only a short sleeved shirt – the clothes he had on when we escaped our country.”
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees is trying to provide shelter, blankets, and clothing for the refugees. This has not been an easy task with hundreds of thousands of Syrians in need and funding low.
This month storms hit the Zaatari camp, flooding and blowing over tents. Syrians who had just gone through the trauma of being displaced from their homeland were dealt another blow. Conditions will continue to be tough for the coming winter months.
Laure Chadraoui, a spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme in Jordan (WFP), said, “The temperature drops here as low as minus two or minus three [Celsius] sometimes, especially at night.” WFP gives food aid to the refugees.
Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, currently home to 30,000 Syrians who have fled recent fighting in the country. Some 75% of the camp’s inhabitants are women and children. (WFP/Jonathan Dumont)
WFP says it might need to feed 750,000 Syrians refugees this year. Meanwhile, inside Syria WFP is feeding about 1.5 million victims trapped by the fighting. This mission is made more difficult by the ongoing violence but also by funding difficulties.
Meanwhile, in Yemen, as the nation undergoes political transition half of the country does not have access to clean water and 10 million people suffer from hunger. A United Nations report said, “Out of the 1 million children suffering from acute malnutrition more than 150,000 may die if they do not receive immediate assistance.”
The same report also says, “Extreme poverty, volatile food and commodity prices and an increase of the cost of living will further reduce access to food, basic services and livelihoods for millions of Yemenis.”
Aid agencies like the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF will need funding to help Yemen fight off the hunger crisis. These agencies rely on donor governments and the public.
The U.S. Food for Peace program is the largest single supporter of WFP. If the U.S. Congress supports Food for Peace in upcoming budget negotiations, it can lead to more donations to fight hunger in Yemen and elsewhere.
The UN warns, “There can be no sustainable transition in Yemen without the full support for the humanitarian response.”
Humanitarian aid is a crucial part of achieving peace and stability whether in Syria or Yemen.