One Million Syrians Going Hungry, UN Warns
By Alex Johnston On January 8, 2013 @ 4:00 pm In Middle East | No Comments
At least 1 million Syrians are going hungry because of the nearly two-year-long conflict, the United Nations warns, saying that its humanitarian agencies cannot reach those people with the current amount of supplies and the level of danger to the aid workers.
“WFP is unable to scale up assistance due to lack of implementing partners and challenges reaching the hardest hit areas,” Elizabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the World Food Program (WFP), said in a briefing on Jan. 8.
The WFP is reaching around 1.5 million people inside Syria each month, but there are currently around 2.5 million in need of assistance, in a dismal situation caused by the combat between rebels and Syrian regime loyalists, she said. More than 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has escalated in recent months.
The WFP was also forced to withdraw from Homs, Aleppo, Tartous, and Qamisl, blaming poor security conditions caused by the fighting.
“Where fighting is taking place, food prices have reportedly doubled and there is a lack of cooking gas,” Byrs added. The U.N. said a lack of manpower and the inability to reach hard-hit areas prevented the WFP from providing assistance to the 1 million people going hungry.
It added that its main partner in Syria, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, has reached its capacity to provide aid, leaving the WFP to look for more partners on the ground in Syria.
The cost of bread across the country has spiked because of damage to flour mills near Aleppo, poor travel conditions, road closures, and fuel shortages, she said. There has also been a shortage in cooking gas to produce the bread.
In Aleppo, most residents rely heavily on bakeries that produce bread, the price of which has skyrocketed in recent months to 250 Syrian pounds for one kilogram (2.2 pounds). Before the conflict erupted, a kilogram cost only 45 pounds and subsidized bread cost 15 pounds.
On Jan. 8, there was no end in sight to the diplomatic impasse after President Bashar al-Assad’s most recent speech on Jan. 6.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s office criticized Assad for continuing to stay in power and for continuing to fight the “terrorists” besieging the country.
“What the Syrian people desperately need at this time are real solutions to the crisis that is tearing their nation apart,” Ban spokesman Martin Nesirky said in New York on Jan. 7. He noted that Assad’s speech rejected “a political transition and the establishment of a transitional governing body with full executive powers that would include representatives of all Syrians.”
Assad’s speech touched on a peace plan involving a military ceasefire that would be implemented on the condition that rebel forces halt operations. It would also involve reconciliation, a new constitution, and doing away with foreign intervention.
Rebel groups and Western governments panned Assad’s plan, which was delivered in his first public speech in months.
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