WFP forced to scale down operations in Syria, as donors gather in Brussels ahead of a major conference
DAMASCUS – An unprecedented funding crisis in Syria is forcing the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to cut assistance to 2.5 million of the 5.5 million people who rely on the agency for their basic food needs. The announcement comes as the European Union gears up to host the seventh Brussels Conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region” on Wednesday.
After exhausting all other options, WFP took the decision to stretch the extremely limited resources by prioritizing 3 million Syrians who are unable to make it from one week to the next without food assistance rather than continue assistance to 5.5 million people and run out of food completely by October.
“Instead of scaling up or even keeping pace with increasing needs, we’re facing the bleak scenario of taking assistance away from people, right when they need it the most,” says WFP Representative and Country Director in Syria Kenn Crossley.
After 12 years of conflict, massive displacement, a global pandemic with the consequent economic crisis that pushed prices to record highs and most recently, devastating earthquakes, Syrians have been living in a perpetual state of emergency. Currently, an average monthly income covers only around one-quarter of a family’s food needs. Even those receiving regular food assistance from WFP were already struggling to cope.
Over the past couple of years, WFP took every measure possible to stretch available resources and maintain its assistance to the most vulnerable. This included the gradual reduction of the size of the monthly food ration to what now has become half the standard size.
WFP is facing the challenge of increased needs at a pace that funding has not been able to match
and the cost of delivering food assistance is at an unprecedented high because food and fuel prices have increased.
"Further reductions in ration size are impossible. Our only solution is to reduce the number of recipients. The people we serve have endured the ravages of conflict, fleeing their homes, losing family members and their livelihoods. Without our assistance, their hardships will only intensify,” added Crossley.
Even before the devastating February earthquakes that hit the north and west of Syria causing widespread damage, loss of lives and displacement, 12.1 million people across the country were in the grip of hunger.
Malnutrition rates are at an all-time high as well, with one in four pregnant and nursing mothers acutely malnourished, and one in four children stunted in some parts of the county.
Without adequate and timely food assistance, Syria's next generation and its entire future are at risk.
“We have the capacity and solutions to reduce dependency on humanitarian assistance and make a lasting difference in people’s lives,” said Crossley. “It's critical that we keep providing life-saving food assistance to help families get through each week and each month, while we work on interventions that help people rebuild their lives and get back standing on their feet.”
With limited income opportunities to cushion the blow, WFP is deeply concerned that individuals removed from assistance will be further plunged into poverty and hunger, forcing them to rely increasingly on harmful coping mechanisms such as child labour, early marriage or accumulating more debt.
"Our partners have been instrumental in preventing such cuts before, particularly over the past two years. Now, we count on them to prevent irreversible harm to the Syrian people’s future. The time to act is now,” said Crossley.
WFP continues to advocate with partners and major donors for additional funds. WFP urgently requires a minimum of US$180 million to avert these cuts and continue providing food assistance at its current level until the end of the year.
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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.
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