[The following statement was issued by the United Nations World Food Programme on 4 December 2012.]
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is warning that the recent escalation of violence in Syria is making it more difficult to reach the country’s hardest-hit areas and that food insecurity is on the rise due to bread shortages and higher food prices in many parts of the country. High prices are also affecting neighbouring countries hosting Syrian refugees.
- Road access to and from Damascus has become more dangerous, making it difficult to dispatch food from WFP warehouses to some parts of the country -- particularly to the north. In the past few weeks, the UN food agency has seen increasing incidence of indiscriminate attacks on its trucks in different parts of the country.
- In line with a UN decision to reduce the international staff working in Syria and as a result of the further escalation of violence in the country, WFP will relocate seven of its non-essential staff to Amman. Around twenty international and 100 national WFP staff remain in the country to carry out the emergency operation to feed 1.5 million vulnerable Syrians.
- UN agencies, including WFP, have also temporarily suspended all field missions outside Damascus, which will negatively impact our ability to monitor food distributions by our partners and limit the movement of staff to conduct needs and market assessment missions
- The food security situation for many Syrians is rapidly deteriorating with the intensification of the conflict and its expansion to more areas. Bread shortages are becoming more common, with long queues in front of bakeries, a shortage of fuel, damage sustained by bakeries, and an increased demand from fresh waves of internally displaced people.
- In Aleppo, the majority of the population is now dependent on private bakeries where the price is forty to fifty percent higher compared to other governorates.
- Most basic food items are still available in the market, but at higher prices. In areas of fighting, shortages of some food commodities have been observed while prices have almost doubled. In these areas access to the market is often curtailed.
- WFP staff regularly monitoring food distributions in different parts of the country have also reported that food consumption is particularly low among displaced families taking refuge in schools and public buildings due to the lack of access to cooking facilities. Displaced families in rented homes who receive WFP food assistance report adequate food consumption but are running out of resources, having lost jobs and exhausted their life savings.
- WFP is prioritizing food distributions to internally displaced Syrians who fled from areas which have seen heavy fighting in recent months – many of them have been displaced twice. Over eighty-five percent of the 1.5 million people receiving WFP’s food assistance are internally displaced– the majority taking shelter in public buildings such as schools and universities. The governorates of Rural Damascus, Aleppo and Al-Raqqa host the highest number of newly displaced people.
- WFP launched an emergency operation in October 2011 and gradually scaled it up to feed 1.5 million people in all fourteen governorates with its main partner, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC). To provide assistance to this number, WFP requires 15,000 metric tons of food on monthly basis at a cost of US$22 million.
- The WFP monthly food basket contains fifty kilograms of mixed commodities, including rice, bulgur, vegetable oil, sugar, dried and canned pulses, pasta and salt. WFP was recently forced to reduce the size of its food rations due to funding challenges.
- WFP is taking all measures to remain operational and provide much needed food assistance by increasing the number of armoured vehicles at its sub offices so that monitoring of its operations can continue safely.
- Syrians continue to cross borders to neighbouring countries with 465,000 currently registered or awaiting registrations with UNHCR in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq. Joint needs assessments in these countries showed that food was a top priority. WFP has provided food assistance to close to 160,000 refugees during October.
- The Syrian crisis has also negatively impacted the food security situation of neighbouring countries which depend on food imports from Syria and cross border trade. Food prices in Jordan, for example, have increased due to the reduction of food imports by nearly fifty percent and increased demand from new arrivals from Syria.