It’s going to be a long, cold winter for Syrians. And if present trends continue, it will be a very hungry winter for hundreds of thousands of people affected by the conflict. The World Food Program aims to reach 4 million people every month. But in November, they fell short of that goal by about 600,000 people. About 250,000 people were unreachable because rebel groups and the Syrian government prevented relief from reaching besieged populations. The remainder are left hungry because there simply is not enough funding to meet the humanitarian needs of the people. From Reuters:
“Our objective remains to reach 4 million people in December,” WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told a news briefing in Geneva.
“Financial needs are increasing. We used to talk about WFP needing $30 million every week, now we need $40 million each week to cover operations inside Syria but also aid to Syrian refugees,” she said.
Human Rights Watch, based in New York, urged the Security Council to adopt a resolution threatening sanctions against parties that denied aid workers access to deliver supplies, a step up from a non-binding presidential statement urging cooperation issued on October 2.
“A second winter in the midst of conflict is bearing down on Syrian children,” UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado told reporters in Geneva.
“With the freezing cold and driving rain come particular risks to the very young, the displaced inside Syria and children living in informal settlements across the region.”
In addition to the 4.3 million children who need help inside Syria, another 1.2 million living as refugees in neighboring countries also require aid, she said.
There are two things that could help keep Syrians from starving this winter. The first is for the international community to pony up more for humanitarian assistance. The second is for the Security Council to demand that humanitarian aid not be used as a tool of conflict, and that any group or entity (including the government) that obstructs humanitarian aid be liable for sanction.
The UN’s top humanitarian official Valerie Amos is meeting with the Security Council and is likely to press these points. Let’s hope the council listens. The situation as it stands is grotesque.