WFP funding for Syria 'precarious'

An aid distribution in Damascus, Syria. Photo by: H. Mukhtar / UNHCR

The U.N. Security Council reached a unanimous but nonbinding statement Thursday (April 18) on Syria  not much for aid organizations such as the World Food Prgram, which Devex learned spends $19 million a week for its emergency operations on the Syrian crisis but is now running out of funds.

WFP chief Ertharin Cousin, in a video message along with the heads of other leading U.N. agencies, said they are ”precariously close” to suspending some humanitarian support for Syrians affected by the conflict.

The $19 million WFP spends every week is largely on food aid, which the agency mainly procures from neighboring countries, as well as logistics, Syria crisis emergency coordinator Muhannad Hadi said.

Hadi told Devex however that now that the agency targets to reach $2.5 million internally displaced people inside the country, the need for immediate funding is more critical. They need to raise $81 billion by the end of June to continue their life-saving efforts.

The agency has so far received $93 million from the more than $1.5 billion pledged by donors in January.

Asked which activities will be affected when funds run out, Hadi said: “Almost all sectors will be affected.”

“It’s a very simple equation. If we do not get $81 million, people will go hungry,” he stressed, hoping nevertheless that WFP will not be put to such a difficult situation.

Some of the activities that are in danger of being cut are WFP’s food voucher programs in Lebanon and Jordan, which benefit almost 600,000 Syrian refugees, WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said last week in Geneva.

Other challenges

The U.N. Security Council’s statement called for an end to the three-year conflict and urged both the government and rebels to ensure ”safe and unimpeded access” for aid groups “in all areas of Syria.” It comes after Valerie Amos briefed the 15-member body of the humanitarian ”horrors” happening across the country.

“We have heard testimonies of houses burnt with families inside, of people being bombed and killed while queuing for a piece of bread. This is the reality of Syria today,” the U.N. humanitarian aid chief said in her testimony.

The same harsh reality is being experienced by aid groups working inside Syria and in refugee camps in the neighboring countries of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

Apart from funding, Amos said the Syrian regime is restricting the number of NGOs allowed to work inside the country, project approvals and aid delivery.

UN agencies can now only partner with a few NGOs, after the government has reduced the approved list from 110 to 29.

The number of checkpoints has also increased. For instance, trucks containing humanitarian aid need to pass through 50 checkpoints from damascu to Aleppo, each needing a permit signed by two government ministers.

“We cannot do business this way,” Amos said.

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About the author

  • 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.