News / Middle East

    WFP Seeks More Money to Cope with Syrian Crisis

    An old tank is surrounded by fire following explosions of mortar shells from Syria on the Israeli controlled Golan Heights, July 16, 2013.
    An old tank is surrounded by fire following explosions of mortar shells from Syria on the Israeli controlled Golan Heights, July 16, 2013.
    The United Nations launched a record $5.1 billion appeal last month to cope with the burgeoning humanitarian crisis of the Syrian civil war and among the agencies desperately needing replenishment is the World Food Program.

    The World Food Program needs more money, and in less than two months will have exhausted its funding for an operation that is feeding 2.5 million people inside war-torn Syria and more than a million who have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

    U.N. world food program agency director Ertharin Cousin speaks during a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon, (File photo).U.N. world food program agency director Ertharin Cousin speaks during a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon, (File photo).
    x
    U.N. world food program agency director Ertharin Cousin speaks during a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon, (File photo).
    U.N. world food program agency director Ertharin Cousin speaks during a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon, (File photo).
    WFP director Ertharin Cousin spoke to VOA during a recent overnight stop in Beirut after holding meetings in Damascus with senior Syrian government officials.  The highest-ranking U.N. official to have been in the Syrian capital for several months said the biggest challenge right now is covering the costs of feeding millions of Syrians.

    “We have enough right now to support our activities until the end of August, the 1st September,” she explained. “We are on the phone every single day talking to donors. And as it comes in, it goes out. And we will continue to keep our pipeline robust for as long as the donors continue to invest in our work.”

    She projects that by the end of the year four million inside Syria and three million outside will need emergency feeding, costing the WFP $168 million a month.

    But money is not her only preoccupation. The WFP head slipped into Damascus to hold talks with Syrian government officials to ensure freer access for her agency and more than 20 partner non-governmental organizations that help distribute the agency’s food.  In recent weeks WFP has had food distribution disrupted at government checkpoints and by the jihadist group al-Nusra front.

    “In the meetings with government my message was a very direct one and that is that we must have access, and we need the government to ensure that they do nothing to impede our access nor should anyone in the opposition do anything to impede our access,” Cousin said. “And that we are going to talk to the government and we are going to talk to everyone else who’s involved in this conflict to ensure that we have the humanitarian access that we need so that people don’t go hungry."

    Cousin said she made clear to Syrian officials that she did not want to get involved in discussions on the political situation in the war-torn country.  “Of course they raised political issues. They were very quick to understand my reluctance to participate in any political conversations because that’s not what I came for. There’re lots of people spending a great deal of time debating the political issues and working to find the political solutions,” she stated. “We deal with the fallout of the lack of a political solution.”

    Cousin said she admires the courage of the more than 100 WFP staffers inside Syria and she said she has to evaluate from time to time whether to evacuate them because of the high risks. “You consider it because you have the responsibility to consider all ‘the what ifs’ but we recognize that if we leave, people will go hungry,” she said. “I work with people who humble me every single day because they are committed to being where people need them whether it was in Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan or now in Syria.”

    Despite intensified shelling in Damascus her staff insists on staying.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.