World Food Programme chief says tragic Syria crisis is 'more than numbers’

WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin visits with families in Syria. Millions have fled their homes, creating a humanitarian crisis in which food is a top priority. Photo: WFP/Abeer Etefa

9 January 2014 – With the humanitarian situation in war-torn Syria “getting more difficult every day”, the head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is urging the international community to continue supporting the wide-scale relief effort underway, and calling for increased access so aid workers can deliver basic supplies to families trapped in areas of heavy fighting.

Ertharin Cousin, WFP Executive Director, wrapped up a visit to Syria today after high-level talks with Government officials. She said that as the three-year conflict grinds on, the humanitarian situatioIt is essential that the international community continues to support the provision of basic humanitarian needs.n is worsening by the day, “as almost half the Syrian people are now food insecure.”

“This month, we scaled up our food assistance to reach 4.25 million people inside Syria. The challenge is gaining access to the hot spots and besieged areas,” she said, emphasizing that without access, WFP cannot reach the increasing number of families trapped by the fighting and in desperate need of food assistance.

During her one-day visit, Ms. Cousin stopped at a food distribution centre in Damascus where she talked to women and children who were receiving their monthly food rations.

One of the women told her that she lives in an apartment with 32 members of her extended family. She and her family took refuge in Damascus after fleeing different parts of Syria when their homes were destroyed. None have been able to find jobs and they depend on WFP food assistance to put food on the table for the children.

“The Syrian crisis is more than numbers. Every family that I spoke to shared a sad story of tragedy and loss,” Ms. Cousin said. “I am overwhelmingly moved by the resilience and the spirit of the Syrian people. It is essential that the international community continues to support the provision of basic humanitarian needs.”

As fighting in Syria continues, WFP is appealing for close to $2 billion to assist more than 7 million Syrians in urgent need of food assistance in 2014. These include 4.25 million people inside Syria and over 2.9 million refugees in neighbouring countries in need of food, making this WFP’s most challenging, complex and largest emergency.


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