GENEVA - The World Food Program (WFP) says it is making preparations ahead of a possible onslaught on Syria's northern province of Idlib to provide food to hundreds of thousands of people trapped in the midst of battle.
Anticipating the worst, the organization says it has pre-positioned emergency food stocks inside Syria and Turkey for cross-border delivery into Idlib. WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel says the WFP has enough ready-to-eat food for 850,000 people for one week.
"In addition, we can use the ration, what is there from the normal distribution in north Hama, Idlib and rural Aleppo," he told VOA. "We can eventually use some of those in case of big displacements of population. … And on the top of that also, we have nutrition supplies to support 180,000 children and women for up to three months."
An estimated 3 million people live in Idlib, the last major stronghold of active opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's rule. The presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russia, meeting in Tehran on Friday for a summit of key foreign players in Syria's war, failed to agree on a cease-fire in Idlib.
The United Nations warns a military attack on Idlib could send people fleeing toward Turkey because they have nowhere else to go. Turkey is expected to close its borders. It already is hosting 3½ million Syrian refugees and says it cannot take more.
The WFP is appealing to all warring parties to protect civilians and respect humanitarian principles. It is urging them to allow aid workers to safely deliver food to the many families in need, no matter where they are.
It says its operation in Syria is very costly and that it needs $211 million to cover needs through February.