Red Cross: More than one million Syrians going hungry as humanitarian crisis worsens
Amina, a Syrian woman who fled the fighting in Aleppo, is photographed inside an abandoned building with her five-month-old sick daughter, Asma, on the outskirts of Saraqib, southwest of Aleppo, on September 9, 2013. According to the Red Cross, more than one million Syrians are going hungry. (AFP)
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More than one million Syrians are going hungry as fighting and unauthorized checpoints prevent humanitarian aid deliveries, the international Red Cross said Monday.
“A conservative estimate is a million people without food,” Simon Eccleshall, crisis management chief at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) told Agence France Presse.
The IFRC's member on the ground in Syria, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), plays a key role in international humanitarian operations in Syria and is behind the distribution of aid. According to IFRC figures, around one third of the pre-war Syrian population of 21 million now relies on foreign aid to survive.
However, the fighting and violence rocking Syria has disrupted aid efforts - according to AFP, the Syrian war has claimed the lives of 32 of the SARC’s 3,000 volunteers, and the erection of unauthorized checkpoints by both sides of the conflict cause serious delays to aid.
“The SARC only has access to about 85 percent of the territory in Syria on a regular basis,” Eccleshall told reporters, AFP reported.
Despite having access to this 85 percent, the SARC is only able to provide regular aid supplies to half of the six million internally displaced Syrians - those who were driven from their homes due to the conflict but have remained within the country.
“There are many areas that have not been supplied for months due to the conflict and suburbs around Damascus for almost a year,” IFRC spokesman Benoit Carpentier told AFP.
“Obviously, the worst situation is in besieged areas and areas with severe violence. One should also remember that many have not had any income for more than two years. Female-headed households is another big group facing food insecurity,” the aid official added.
Eccleshall noted that the IFRC and SARC are seriously concerned about the onset of winter in Syria, and that the agencies were predicting that the number of those needing aid could increase rapidly. Damascus and Aleppo, where some of the fiercest fighting has taken place, regularly get snow.
Alongside those displaced within Syria, an estimated three million have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, escaping the violence in their country that has claimed that lives of more than 120,000 people, according to AFP.
With the IFRC recently doubling its Syria aid appeal, there have been growing fears of "compassion fatigue" after nearly three years of conflict in Syria.
“The main challenge that we have today is that for many people in the world, this situation became ‘normal’,” Walter Cotte, the IFRC’s under-secretary general, told AFP.
“We need to really highlight that there is a big humanitarian crisis killing people every day,” Cotte added.
Eccelshall added that at the Geneva II peace conference on Syria - tenatively set for January 22, 2014 - the international aid agencies would push to ensure that the humanitarian crisis, how to solve it and how to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people are at the top of the agenda.