DAMASCUS – As Syrians face a harsh winter amid civil war for a third consecutive year, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has begun distributing close to 10,000 litres of fuel to internally displaced families living in ten shelters in Damascus. The fuel is used in stoves for both cooking and heating. Further distribution of fuel is planned for an additional 35 shelters in Homs, Hama and Rural Damascus in the next few days.
“Syria is always quite cold in winter but it is quite different when you face a fierce winter in a shelter with very limited resources rather than in the comfort of your own home,” says WFP Syria Country Director Matthew Hollingworth. “Most internally displaced Syrians fled their homes with few belongings so they do not even have enough warm clothes or blankets to fend off the freezing weather. They desperately need fuel for heating and to cook the food they receive as humanitarian assistance.”
• Over the last few days, WFP has continued to send food to civilians suffering in hard-to-reach areas. The UN food agency delivered 3,000 family food rations – enough to feed 15,000 people for one month – on 10 and 12 December through two joint interagency cross-line missions to Khan Shaykhoon in Idlib Governorate. The area saw intense fighting through all of last year and could not be reached.
• Elsewhere, food distributions are underway despite bitter weather. WFP’s plans to provide food to 4 million people this month across Syria are on track. But humanitarian needs and food insecurity are growing as the conflict exhausts the most vulnerable Syrians.
• WFP is planning to airlift urgently needed food aid from Erbil, Iraq, to Qamishly in northeast Syria for displaced families this week but bad weather has delayed the arrival of the first WFP-chartered plane. Once Qamishly airport re-opens, WFP will start airlifting over 400 metric tons of food on two aircraft with 12 return flights between the two countries. Humanitarian agencies have not been able to reach Al Hassakeh governorate consistently for over five months because of insecurity on the roads.
• The family food rations being flown in include wheat flour, pasta, oil, sugar, salt, rice, canned beans and bulgur wheat and will help people get through the coldest months of the year. WFP will continue to try to reach Al Hassakeh and other northeastern governorates by road.
• In Lebanon, WFP and its partners are meeting the food needs of newly arrived Syrian refugees hit by the winter storm with enough food to feed 150,000 people for a month. Newly arrived families receive food rations until they are registered with UNHCR and start receiving “e-cards,” electronic food vouchers that they can redeem at local shops. WFP is providing assistance to more than 600,000 Syrian refugees across Lebanon.
• WFP will soon increase the value of the food voucher for Syrian refugees in Lebanon from US$27 to US$30 per month to compensate for an increase in food prices and to allow vulnerable families to meet their needs during the coldest months of the year.
• In Jordan, WFP is increasing food distributions in Zaatari refugee camp to increase the caloric intake of vulnerable Syrians during the harshest winter months. The food basket for them includes rice, lentils, bulgur wheat, sugar and salt. Refugees in Zaatari also receive food vouchers valued at 16 JOD (equivalent to US$17) per person every month. WFP plans to increase the value of vouchers as it switches camp residents to vouchers.
• The Syria response is WFP’s largest and most complex global emergency.
For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@example.org):
Abeer Etefa, WFP/Cairo, Tel. +202 2528 1730 ext. 2600 Mob. +2 010 666 34352
Laure Chadraoui, WFP/Beirut, Tel. +961 197 8779, Mob. +96176320741
Dina Elkassaby, WFP/Amman, Tel. +962 6 515 4009, Mob. +962 7 9867 4638
Jane Howard, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39 06 65132321, Mob. +39 346 7600521
Elisabeth Byrs, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41 22 917 8564, Mob. +41 79 473 4570
Gregory Barrow, WFP/London, Tel. +44 20 72409001, Mob. +44 7968 008474
Bettina Luescher, WFP/New York, Tel. +1-646-5566909, Mob. +1-646-8241112