The UN World Food Programme warned this month that it would terminate its general food assistance scheme in Syria in January due to a lack of humanitarian funding.
This news from the WFP came despite an appeal it made in November warning that it needed $134mn to keep fighting against the hunger and malnutrition threatening 3.2 million people in Syria. The WFP estimated that every 1% cut in food assistance risks pushing more than 400,000 people towards the brink of starvation.
And it comes at a time when the need for humanitarian assistance in Syria is growing. Around 90% of the country’s population lives under the poverty line, while 15.3 million individuals are classified as being “in need” by the UN.
Even before the demise of the general assistance programme, Food insecurity has also continued to increase, affecting at least 12.1 million people already, with 2.9 million more at risk.
The announcement of the end of the general food programme in several weeks comes after a 40% budget reduction in July of this year, which resulted in a decrease in monthly assistance to 2.5 million beneficiaries in Syria. The lack of humanitarian funding also impacted the WFP in neighbouring states. It suppressed aid in August to 38,000 refugees in Iraq and 50,000 in Jordan.
And the funding shortfall also threatens half of the nations where the WFP operates. Programmes have already been reduced or will be cut soon. It hopes to keep support running for families hit by natural disasters, using smaller programmes alongside some child nutrition and livelihood-support schemes for farmers.
Here, Al Majalla looks at the funding crisis, including the underlying dynamics, and asks what impact the looming cuts will have on the Syrian population and how humanitarian aid might work in the future in a country badly in need of help.
In the past decade, the WFP has spent $3bn on providing 4.8 million metric tons of food, over $300mn in cash-based assistance and $800mn in goods and services.
WFP’s cut in aid to Syria is occurring while humanitarian needs at all levels for the Syrian crisis continue to grow. Fears of a reduction in international humanitarian assistance have increased in recent years.