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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countriesi
X
December 16, 2014 2:14 PM
Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.
Video

Video Indonesian Province to Expand Sharia Law

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and a legal system based on Dutch civil law and Indonesian government regulations. But in a 2001 compromise with separatists, Aceh province in Sumatra island’s north was allowed to implement Sharia law. Since then, religious justice has become increasingly strict. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh.
Video

Video Some Russian Businesses Thrive in Poor Economy

Capital flight, the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions are pushing Russia's staggering economy into recession. But not companies are suffering. The ruble’s drop in value has benefited exporters as well as businesses targeting increasingly frugal customers. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

All About America

AppleAndroid