Saturday, December 06, 2014

60 Minutes Touts Vital Role of World Food Programme in Syria

Solving hunger is also a contribution to peace and stability. When governments can no longer guarantee adequate food supplies, states are prone to fall. Volatility on food markets can quickly translate into volatility on the streets. -World Food Programme
Photo: World Food Programme
The  UN World Food Programme, which was conceived in 1961 and established formally in 1963, was created to respond to food emergencies around the world. The organization, however, places a strong emphasis on hunger alleviation as a solution for many of the problems facing the world. For example, if we ensure that people have access to adequate food and nutrition, we can help avert conflict. Sometimes the opposite situation occurs. When we have conflict, hunger increases significantly. Civil wars tend to deprive large populations of food and water.  This is the case in Syria, where a civil war that has continued over the past 18 months has caused millions of people to leave their homes.

Here's what the WFP says about the situation in Syria
"Access to basic needs including food, water, electricity and medical supplies has been interrupted in areas witnessing armed activities. A growing number of main breadwinners have become unemployed and soaring food and fuel prices across the country have also exacerbated the situation. In response, WFP – in partnership with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and 23 other local organizations– is providing monthly food assistance to close to 3 million Syrians and will scale up to feed 4 million people by October."   Visit WFP's secition on Syria

Photo: World Food Programme
On Nov. 30, the CBS television program 60 Minutes broadcast a segment on the WFP's efforts in Syria. Host Scott Pelley reported on the men and women of the WFP who are risking their lives to save Syrians from starvation  Pelley interviewed WFP director Ertharin Cousin;  Matthew Hollingworth, head of the WFP's Syria mission; and Andrew Harper, who heads the efforts in neighboring Jordan by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. View the 60 minutes video. You can also read the script

Cousin noted that the operation in Syria is the largest ever for the agency. "We have over 3,000 trucks supporting 45,000 metric tons of food delivered every month inside Syria," said the WFP director.

Some areas are worse than others. For example, the Syrian regime sealed off the city of Hons for 600 days.  In February, the government finally allowed a delegation from the WFP to enter the city to provide relief.  The impact was very tangible among the population,  "I could lift a grown man because he'd got to about 40 kilos (85 pounds)," said Hollingworth.

The WFP is facing a financial crisis and is unable to continue its current levels of support. On Dec. 1, the UN agency announced it would suspend its food voucher program due to a severe cash shortfall, a decision that will leave nearly 1.7 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey struggling to pay for food. Prior to the program’s suspension, the WFP was providing refugees with $15 to $45 monthly voucher cards to purchase food in local markets. "The suspension couldn’t have come at a worse time – as winter approaches," Bread for the World's international policy analyst Beth Ann Saracco said in the Bread Blog

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