Unites Nations (TRNS) – The World Food Program is quickly running out of food and money for Syria, where millions of displaced people forced to rely on the UN agency for daily meals risk being cut-out of food distribution programs as early as late July, warns the WFP’s top official in the country .
While world governments had initially pledged more than 1.1 billion dollars to the U.N.’s humanitarian assistance response plan in Syria for 2013, only a fraction of that amount has since been provided by member states.
“We’ve received approximately 300 million dollars.” the World Food Program’s emergency coordinator for Syria Muhannad Hadi told a press briefing at UN headquarters Tuesday.“We’re still short 700 million.”
Hadi says the ongoing lack of funding might force the WFP to further cut back the scope of distribution operations that are already struggling to meet growing needs on the ground. The WFP says it provided food assistance to 2.5 million people inside Syria and 1 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries in June, but that millions more were left without urgently needed aid.
The UN agency initially hoped to reach 3 million people inside the country in July and up to 4 million by October, but now warns its program in Syria over the next three months is only 48% funded.
“The WFP needs every week 27 million US dollars to feed 4 million people inside Syria and approximately 3 million people outside Syria.” Hadi said. “If we don’t get food as early as this month our programs in neighboring countries may be disrupted. And inside Syria, if we don’t get food immediately, probably in the month of August, we may not be able to meet all the needs.”
Syria’s agricultural sector has been decimated over the last 28 months of fighting, according to a report released last week by the WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization. Ongoing violence, damaged infrastructure, sanctions and fuel shortages have left food production facilities and mills unable to operate at full capacity. The WFP report found that wheat production has dropped 41% since the start of the conflict, with the average monthly price of wheat flour more than doubling between May 2011 and May 2013.
The downturn in production and high prices have also been exacerbated by massive population displacements. The UN estimates that three million Syrians have already sought refuge in neighboring countries and that an additional four million more are internally displaced, a total that represent a third of the country’s entire population.
“We’ve gotten to a stage, if displaced people inside Syria don’t get food from the World Food Program, they simply will not eat.” Hadi said.
The WFP currently provides aid “packets” designed to provide a family of five with enough food for a month, which include staples like rice, pasta, canned beans, oil, sugar and, when available, wheat flour.
Hadi says securing access to deliver food packets through out the country has proven to be a difficult task but that the agency has nevertheless been able to reach all of Syria’s 14 governorates, including government and rebel controlled areas.
Hadi says the agency negotiates access across army and rebel checkpoints on a daily basis for its fleet of 700 to 800 trucks operating in the country. However, he also acknowledged that staff continued to be prevented from entering embattled hotspots near the cities of Damascus, Aleppo and Homs.
“Its extremely difficult, its extremely challenging. We go to insecure areas, we get caught in crossfire, we get shot at.” Hadi said. “Its unfortunate that the Syrian people have reached this stage, where they become dependent on the World Food Program and the United Nations and others to support them. But this is what we are faced with now…we have to make sure that support to the Syrians continues until this crisis is over.”