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Middle East

UN warns one million Syrians going hungry due to conflict

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-01-10

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Wednesday it was unable to reach one million desperate and hungry Syrians because of the perilous security situation across the country after nearly two years of deadly conflict.

As a bitter winter grips the region, about one million people inside Syria are going hungry due to the difficulty in getting aid into a country wracked by a 22-month civil war, the UN’s food agency revealed Wednesday.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is handing out food rations to about 1.5 million people in Syria each month, revealed a WFP spokeswoman. But it still falls short of the 2.5 million to be reached.

Syria envoy dismisses Assad’s speech

International peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said the Syrian president’s proposal to end the crisis was no better than previous failed initiatives. “I’m afraid what has come out is very much a repeat of previous initiatives that obviously did not work ... it’s not really different and perhaps is even more sectarian and one-sided,” he told the BBC.
(Source: Reuters)

At a news briefing in Geneva Wednesday, WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said the UN agency was working with its main partner in the country the (Syrian Arab) Red Crescent. But the agencies were overstretched and unable to expand operations.

The deteriorating security situation has forced the WFP to pull its staff out of its offices in Aleppo, Homs, Tartus and Qamisly, according to Byrs.

Bread and fuel are in short supply as the few government-approved aid agencies are stretched to the limit.

Long lines at bakeries, bread in short supply

A staple on Syrian tables, bread is in particularly short supply in many parts of Syria amid reports of shortages of wheat flour due to damage to mills in the embattled Aleppo area, according to WFP officials.

Footage filmed in Aleppo last month showed long lines outside a bakery as desperate residents braved the winter cold to access limited supplies.

“I've been waiting here since six in the morning. I've not had bread for days and there's not much left,” said an elderly woman gesturing to the bakery counter as men, wrapped in winter coats, edged and shoved their way to the bakery counter.

The WFP is trying to deliver emergency food baskets containing basic supplies of cereals, oil, sugar, canned meat, pulses and a special nutritional product for young children across Syria.

But distribution has been stymied by the heavy fighting. The main Syrian port of Tartus is considered too dangerous, so ships and trucks are being forced to take circuitous routes, working out of the neighbouring Lebanese capital of Beirut.

Tents collapse, anger mounts in Jordanian camp

The prolonged Syrian conflict, which has claimed 60,000 lives, according to UN figures, has also seen the displacement of populations into neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, as well as Iraq and Egypt.

More than 400,000 refugees from Syria have registered with UN and Turkish officials since the conflict began in March 2011. But the actual figure of Syrian refugees is believed to be much higher.

In the Zaatari camp in Jordan, angry refugees pelted camp officials with stones and sticks after their tents collapsed in the howling wind, according to a spokesman for the Jordanian charity running the camp.

Heavy rain has exacerbated the situation, turning the camp into a muddy swamp as some refugees used buckets in a vain attempt to contain the damage.

Conditions in the Zaatari camp were “worse than living in Syria,'' said Fadi Suleiman, a 30-year-old refugee, told the Associated Press.

Last month, the UN issued an appeal for $1.5 billion to help the millions of Syrians suffering from what it called a dramatically deteriorating humanitarian situation.

Standing in the camp, his head wrapped in a red and white checkered scarf for warmth, Abu Bilal sounded a warning to the international community.

“We're desperate. We need a solution fast,'' he told the Associated Press. “People's reactions may get out of hand, especially if they see their child fall ill or even die. They could do something that nobody will be able to control or blame them for.''

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-01-09


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