United Nations advisor Jan Egeland said Thursday that the World Food Programme (WFP) made two airdrops in one day of life-saving food into the besieged Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor.
Deir ez-Zor has been under attack by the ISIS terrorist group since 2014. There have been alarming reports of food shortages and hunger in the city.
Humanitarian convoys cannot travel by road into Deir ez-Zor because of the ISIS threat. So the WFP decided to resort to airdrops to reach around 200,000 starving civilians.
To avoid being shot down by ISIS, the planes have to fly at a very high altitude. This makes the food drops much more difficult to reach the landing zone. So it took extra time for WFP to improve the consistency of the food drops.
WFP has now done 15 total airdrops of food, which are distributed on the ground by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. Egeland said, “there are large distributions inside Deir ez-Zor and we are reaching now soon everybody with food rations for civilians in Deir ez-Zor.”
The Syrian civil war, now five years old, has caused a severe hunger crisis. Peace talks and ceasefires between the government and opposition have not held.
Humanitarian access remains limited or non-existent in many areas throughout Syria. The combatants often block aid agencies from delivering supplies. In the city of Darayya the “nutrition situation is very bad” and the UN is urging the Syrian government to let humanitarian aid through.
Over 4 million people inside Syria depend on life-saving food from the WFP. Reaching the starving civilians is the great challenge WFP and other humanitarian agencies are facing. That is why a peace settlement is so urgent.
The emergence of ISIS from the chaos of war has worsened the situation drastically. The terrorists occupy a large amount of territory and have caused widespread displacement and hunger.
There is also the challenge of funding. The airdrops, for example, are extremely costly.
Will WFP have enough funding to continue to provide food into the besieged areas by air? That is an extreme concern as noted by UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura who said “they will be requiring more funds, but I hope there will be no problem because for an operation like that, which is quite unique and can be replicated elsewhere, funds should not be a problem.”
The United States Food for Peace program is a major source of funding for the humanitarian mission. Will Congress give Food for Peace the funding it needs to meet the Syria emergency and others around the globe, especially with so many at once? Will other countries be encouraged to keep up donations?
Until the war ends, hunger will remain a powerful enemy of Syria. The international community needs to support millions of innocent Syrians who are victims of a savage civil war.