Damascus – The UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced Monday that it is expanding its emergency operation to provide food assistance to over 7 million displaced Syrians inside their country and in neighbouring countries. Recent assessments show that almost half the population inside Syria is food insecure and close to 6.3 million people need urgent, life-saving, food assistance.
In 2014, WFP plans to feed 4.25 million displaced Syrians inside their country and around 2.9 million Syrians who fled to neighbouring countries. “This is the worst humanitarian crisis that we have seen in decades, with every day more vulnerable Syrians pushed into hunger,” said Muhannad Hadi, WFP’s Syria Emergency Coordinator. “One way of slowing the influx of refugees into neighbouring countries is by providing essential and urgently needed humanitarian assistance to conflict-affected Syrians inside their country.”
WFP plans to increase the size of its food basket to provide more calories per person per day as other sources of food are increasingly scarce for the most vulnerable. Given the importance and urgency of preventing and reducing malnutrition among children in the first 1,000 days of life, WFP will focus its resources on providing nutritional food supplements to 240,000 children aged six to 23 months.
A new school feeding programme will also start in Syria’s most critical governorates mainly Aleppo, Al Hassakeh, and Rural Damascus where access to education has been worst affected by the crisis. WFP will provide cash and voucher assistance to pregnant women and nursing mothers so Syria’s new generation is not scarred by the legacy of hunger and micronutrient deficiencies. The vouchers will initially benefit 15,000 vulnerable and displaced mothers in areas where food markets are functioning but food is out of the reach of people because incomes have fallen.
In neighbouring countries, WFP will expand its voucher project to provide food assistance to more than 2.9 million people in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Food vouchers can be redeemed against a list of items including fresh produce that are not normally included in food rations. WFP uses vouchers when food is available in the market but people do not have money to buy it. Vouchers also boost the local economy and have pumped hundreds of millions of US dollars into the economies of host countries.
WFP’s emergency operation to assist Syrians started in October 2011. In Syria, WFP’s assistance has reached all 14 governorates with more than 3,000 trucks dispatched every month to carry food supplies for close to 4 million people in partnership with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and 28 local charities and NGOs. The Syria response is WFP’s largest and most complex emergency worldwide. WFP needs to raise some $2bn in 2014 to meet the food needs of people due to the Syrian conflict.