News / Middle East

    UN: Syrian Humanitarian Crisis 'Catastrophic'

    Newly arrived Syrian refugees wait their turn to receive mattresses, blankets and other supplies, and to be assigned to tents, at the Zaatari Syrian refugees camp in Mafraq, near the Syrian border with Jordan, Jan. 28, 2013.
    Newly arrived Syrian refugees wait their turn to receive mattresses, blankets and other supplies, and to be assigned to tents, at the Zaatari Syrian refugees camp in Mafraq, near the Syrian border with Jordan, Jan. 28, 2013.
    VOA News
    The United Nations says the humanitarian crisis in Syria has reached "catastrophic" proportions and is dramatically expanding its aid operation to reach one million more people.

    U.N. World Food Program (WFP) spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said Tuesday that the organization plans to feed 1.75 million people this month, then up to 2 million in March and 2.5 million by April.

    The WFP has been feeding about 1.5 million Syrians with roughly 400 truckloads of food each month since September.

    UN AID AGENCY OPERATIONS IN SYRIA

    * UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) & World Heath Organization (WHO)
    - Vaccinated millions of children against polio and measles
    - Delivered blankets and mattresses to more than 550,000 people
    - Provided clean water to thousands of people in shelters in rural Damascus
    - Rehabilitated shelters in Aleppo, Damascus and Hasakeh provinces
    * World Food Program (WFP)
    - Delivered food to 1.5 million people in opposition-held, disputed and government-held areas
    * Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
    - Supported tens of thousands of farmers during the winter planting season
    * UN Population Fund (UNFPA)
    - Provided reproductive health services, psychosocial support
    Also Tuesday, Reuters reported that leaders of Islamic nations are preparing to call for a dialogue between the Syrian opposition and government officials "not involved in oppression" to end two years of bloody civil war.

    According to a draft version seen by Reuters, the declaration holds President Bashar al-Assad's government primarily responsible for continued violence in Syria.

    The communique will be issued after a two-day summit of the 56-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation that begins in Cairo Wednesday.

    The Syrian president has yet to respond to an offer by exiled opposition leader Mouaz al-Khatib to meet with Assad's deputy to negotiate an end to the bloodshed in Syria.

    Syrian Refugees by Country:

    • Lebanon: 228,936
    • Jordan: 222,762
    • Turkey: 163,161
    • Iraq: 79,469
    • Egypt: 14,375

    Source: UNHCR
    In interviews with Arab television networks on Monday, al-Khatib said he is extending a hand to Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa to negotiate what he called a "peaceful departure of the [Assad] regime."

    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported clashes Tuesday between government forces and rebel fighters near an army barracks west of Aleppo. The Observatory also reported fighting in Homs and Idlib provinces and around the capital, Damascus.

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