UN Unable to Reach 1 Million Syrians in Need of Food Aid

The World Food Programme is unable to reach about 1 million Syrians in need of food in some of the regions hardest hit by the civil war.

The United Nations agency said it is providing food assistance to about 1.5 million people in Syria, 85 percent of them internally displaced, every month. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent asked in October for an increase in the number of beneficiaries to 2.5 million, the agency said.

“WFP is unable to further scale-up assistance due to the lack of implementing partners on the ground and challenges reaching some of the country’s hardest-hit areas,” spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said in an e-mailed statement today. “Our main partner, the Red Crescent, is overstretched and has no more capacity to expand further.”

The Syrian conflict, which began with peaceful protests in March 2011, has become a civil war that has killed more than 60,000 people, according to UN estimates. The number of Syrians urgently needing humanitarian aid quadrupled to 4 million between March and December, the world body said last month.

Last month, the WFP said it managed for the first time in many months to distribute assistance to hard-to-reach areas near the Turkish border, including Ras el Ain and Tal Abyad, according to the statement. A bread crisis has hit the country amid a lack of security and a shortage of fuel for bakeries, the statement added.

At least 101 people were killed today, the opposition Local Coordination Committees said in an e-mail.

Plan Rejected

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad offered a plan to end the fighting in a Jan. 6 speech, one that was quickly rejected by the opposition and Western governments.

While he said he would accept a conditional cease-fire and a new constitution, he portrayed the unrest as a fight against Islamic “terrorists” seeking to seize control at the behest of foreign powers.

The Syrian Cabinet is meeting to put in place a mechanism to implement Assad’s plan, Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi told reporters in Damascus today. His remarks were carried by state-run Syrian TV.

He said a committee will be formed to contact political and nationalist figures and groups ahead of a national dialogue conference, the station said.

“I was shocked by this speech, it’s neither logical nor acceptable after two years of suffering endured by the Syrian people,” Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani said in an interview with Egypt’s state-run Ahram Gate.

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