DAMASCUS – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is scaling up food assistance to reach a quarter million people by the end of this month inside Syria with plans to double the caseload to reach 500,000 people in the coming weeks.
WFP has been providing food assistance for up to 100,000 people a month in cities such as Homs, Hama, Idleb and Damascus, working with its partner the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC). This week it also began distributing hot meals to Syrian refugees living in neighbouring Jordan.
“As the conflict continues, Syrians in areas affected by the violence are struggling to feed their families and WFP is deeply concerned about the potential for food insecurity,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin. “The expansion of our assistance came at the request of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and we are ready to further scale up our humanitarian assistance when access permits.”
A joint assessment mission conducted last month by seven UN agencies along with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and led by the Syrian Government, estimated that as many as one million people in the governorates visited were in need of humanitarian assistance.
Even before the violence broke out in Syria, a food security survey found that 1.4 million people – especially those from areas hit hard by a drought in previous years – were struggling to meet their daily food needs and that they were concentrated in areas that are currently affected by unrest.
“We will also be providing capacity-building activities to Red Crescent employees and volunteers to support their efforts and enhance their distribution capacity,” said Daly Belgasmi, WFP’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
The UN food agency has begun distributing hot meals to 1,000 Syrian refugees living in guest houses in Ramtha in northwest Jordan on the borders with Syria. Meanwhile, it is providing food packages to 15,000 Syrians in various parts of Jordan in cooperation with the Jordanian Hashemite Charity Society and the Jordanian Red Crescent.
WFP’s emergency operation for Syria was launched in August 2011 with a budget currently estimated at US$37.4 million – and it is still seeking funding, as so far less than half that amount has been secured.