Syria’s population is facing an urgent food crisis as the World Food Program (WFP) unveiled its inability to sustain its food assistance to millions of Syrians, a WFP official has said.
“The first message is that this is not the time to abandon the people of Syria. Their needs are real or in a situation which is very fragile and unstable even now,” said Kenn Crossley, the WFP representative and country director in Syria, stressing the need for the entire international community to stand in solidarity during this pivotal time.
The significant funding gap affected not only Syria but all of WFP operations worldwide, he told Xinhua in a recent interview.
WFP’s 2023 operational requirements stood at 23.5 billion U.S. dollars, while forecasted funding for 2023 stood at just 10 billion dollars, “leaving us with a historic funding gap” of almost 60 percent, said Crossley.
Efforts to mitigate the funding gap, such as reducing ration sizes, have not been enough to sustain the program beyond December 2023, said the official.
Crossley disclosed that the WFP had to implement severe cuts in the face of dwindling funds in 2023. This led to a notable reduction in the monthly beneficiaries, which dropped from 5.5 million people in the first half of 2023 to just 3 million by July. By the end of 2023, with depleted resources, the WFP declared its incapacity to sustain its general food assistance program in Syria.
According to preliminary results from WFP’s food security assessments, it is expected that by 2024, approximately 12.9 million individuals in Syria will face food insecurity, with an additional 2.6 million people being vulnerable to hunger. Furthermore, there has been a notable rise of 29 percent in the population of severely food-insecure individuals residing in camps compared to the previous year.
“Unfortunately, over half the population is considered to be food insecure. We have seen an increase in malnutrition, particularly among children and mothers. We are seeing an increase in the severity of people’s needs and unfortunately, without our humanitarian assistance, there actually is very, very little other alternative,” said Crossley.
For long-term planning from 2024 onward, Crossley noted that the WFP is redesigning its programs in Syria. The focus is shifting from providing broad assistance to offering deeper support, with resources directed towards those facing the most severe food insecurity.
The new approach aims to concentrate efforts on those who need help the most — babies in need of nourishment, mothers without alternative income sources, and households with dependents facing disabilities, Crossley told Xinhua.
“So we have to — also here in Syria — make our program smaller, more focused (and) more targeted on the people who need us the very, very most. What that means, obviously, is that millions — literally millions — of people in Syria who we were serving are no longer going to get any assistance at all,” he said.
Despite challenges, Crossley is optimistic about providing strategic assistance in Syria, aiming to operate in more regions as security improves. He emphasizes the importance of not only offering humanitarian aid but also helping Syrians rebuild their livelihoods.
“We don’t have to be only giving humanitarian assistance, we can help the people of Syria rebuild their livelihoods so that they don’t need us,” he stressed.