UN suspends field missions in Syria

Rubble in Syria. The World Food Program will relocate seven of its remaining staff members in Syria. This follows a U.N. decision to evacuate all nonessential staff members from the conflict-afflicted country amid “prevailing” insecurity. Photo by: Rami Alhames / CC BY

The World Food Program will relocate seven of its remaining staff members in Syria. This follows a U.N. decision to evacuate all nonessential staff members from the conflict-afflicted country amid “prevailing” insecurity.

U.N. agencies have reported increased attacks against humanitarian aid convoys in recent weeks in some parts of the country. This has prompted the various U.N. agencies to temporarily suspend all field missions in Syria.

“The situation is significantly changing,” U.N. chief security adviser in Syria Sabir Mughal told IRIN. “It’s not the same situation as six months ago.”

Ruben Stewart of the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, meanwhile, said staff members “don’t feel confident” in planning field missions anymore due to worsening insecurity.

These developments pose new threats to the humanitarian situation in Syria. With reduced activities, WFP fears food insecurity will rise in many parts of the country, especially in hard-to-reach areas. The insecurity, WFP notes, is likely to affect the program’s food distributions and needs assessment.

The United Nations is reviewing its contingency plans in the country. Further, many of its agencies are building the capacity of local staff in case international team members are forced to evacuate.

“If it reaches the point … we want to make sure that operations can continue as smoothly as possible,” WFP deputy country director Kate Newton told IRIN.

Up to 25 of some 100 U.N. staff members are expected to leave Syria within the week, according to the United Nations.

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About the author

  • Ravelo jennylei

    Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.