DAMASCUS – The growing cycle of violence in Syria is preventing life-saving food aid from reaching many of the millions of vulnerable Syrians in need, says the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), calling on all parties to allow humanitarian aid to pass safely into disputed and conflict zones.
WFP reached close to two million people in March with food assistance in Syria’s 14 governorates but continues to face enormous challenges reaching certain areas of Rural Damascus, Quneitra, Dara’a, Deir Ezzor, Al-Raqqa, and many parts of the north of the country, particularly Aleppo and Idlib.
“It has become a struggle now to move food from one area to the other with our warehouses and trucks getting increasingly caught in the crossfire,” said Muhannad Hadi, WFP’s Regional Emergency Coordinator for the Syria crisis. “We are sometime left with the difficult decision of calling off the dispatch of food to a place where we know there is dire need for it.”
The situation is particularly critical in conflict zones and some opposition-held areas where WFP has limited access and where millions of people are believed to be in acute need of food.
WFP sub-contracted trucks are often stopped at checkpoints and in many instances are forced to turn back, or sometimes hijacked. In March, three trucks, loaded with food for 17,000 people in Al Hassakeh, were detained by an armed group in rural Deir Ezzor. The drivers and the trucks were released but the food has not yet been recovered.
Recently, a mortar fell on a WFP warehouse in Adraa, on the outskirts of Damascus. WFP staff were unable to recover the food because of continued shelling and insecurity on the ground. Since the beginning of the operation in December 2011, WFP has recorded over 20 attacks on its food trucks, warehouses and cars.
Hadi said that WFP will still attempt to send food to 2.5 million people across the country in April and appealed to all parties to respect and observe humanitarian principles and to guarantee the safe passage of staff, aid trucks and our humanitarian partners’ personnel.
To meet the urgent food needs of a population on the move and the increase in the number of displaced people in Syria, WFP and its partners maintain a flexible distribution scheme. Over the last two weeks, after violence returned to the Baba Amr area of Homs, thousands of people fled to neighbouring districts. WFP re-directed the food allocation earmarked for Baba Amr to the neighbourhoods where residents had sought refuge, in public shelters or with host families in different areas of the governorate.
WFP reached 1.7 million people inside Syria in its February distribution cycle; about 500,000 of them were in opposition-held areas. WFP needs US$19 million every week to support its Syria response, which is aiming to feed 2.5 million people inside Syria and close to one million refugees in neighbouring countries.
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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. Each year, WFP feeds more than 90 million people in more than 70 countries.
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