Action Needed to Prevent Starvation in Syria, Executive Director tells UN Security Council

World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director says the United Nations must unite to help avoid further suffering for those worst affected by the conflict in Syria.

Ertharin Cousin also told the UN Security Council on Wednesday (27 Jan) that WFP’s work in Syria was being disrupted because UN resolutions were not being met. 

“To prevent people from imminent starvation, we need the support and action of every Council Member and every Member State,” she said.

“Preventing mass starvation requires more than a four-town agreement.

“Preventing a humanitarian crisis requires unimpeded and sustained access for humanitarian organizations to bring immediate relief – including food – to all those in need inside Syria.

“Preventing a humanitarian crisis requires humanitarian pauses and unconditional, monitored ceasefires to allow food and other urgent assistance to be delivered to civilians, to support the necessary vaccinations and other health campaigns.

“Preventing a humanitarian crisis as well as a food security and nutrition crisis requires a cessation of attacks on civilian infrastructure.

“Preventing a humanitarian crisis requires freedom of movement for all civilians and the immediate lifting of all sieges by all parties.     

“This is the only way to end hunger and to treat malnutrition, child by child, adult-by-adult, town by town.”

Resolutions “not to impede or hinder” assistance had not been fully realized, said the Executive Director, with more than 4.6 million people living in areas that are besieged or hard to reach.

Obstacles to WFP’s work included numerous checkpoints, the presence of security forces within warehouses, and extensive administrative procedures.

“The time for fully and collectively realizing the resolutions is long overdue,” said the Executive Director. 

“Access must not be arbitrary. Access must not be ad hoc. Access must not be one-time.
Effective access must not require unreasonable approvals. Access must be reasonably safe, regular, transparent and accountable.”

The consequences of restricted access had become clear, said the Executive Director:

“Every day, we receive alarming reports of lack of food, of lack of water, of acute malnutrition, and of death. 

“Let us not allow populations in other locations to suffer the same fate as Madaya…if they are not already suffering.

“Let us not allow the populations in other locations to suffer the same fate as Madaya…if they are not already suffering.

“As I speak to you now, we estimate that there are 18 besieged areas and close to half a million people completely cut off from food and other crucial humanitarian assistance.

In many of these areas, people are running out of food or may have already run out of food. We simply do not know. It is just a matter of time before the brutal images we have witnessed these past few weeks hit our screens again.”

The Executive Director reassured the Security Council that despite the challenges, WFP would continue trying to provide its best service.

She added: “We will continue our steadfast efforts, exhausting every means at our disposal, reaching every child, woman and man in Syria where we can.

“Yet we cannot and do not perform alone. Of course we work with the other members of the UN Country teams and our 40 NGO team partners.

“Paulo Coelho has said: ‘The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.’

“Our responsibility is to ensure that the decisions and choices made in this chamber, become a reality on the ground.

“This is the only way we can save and protect people, and enable healing for Syria’s next generation.”

Find out more