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UN airlifts food from Iraq into war-torn Syria

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Airlifts of humanitarian aid from Iraq into Northeast Syria started yesterday says the UN World Food Programme (WFP). Around 40 metric tons of food landed in Qamishly airport Sunday to be distributed to displaced Syrian families.

WFP will continue to bring in food over the coming days. UNICEF and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) are also taking part in the airlift. Road access to this area of Northeast Syria remains too dangerous because of the ongoing conflict.

Further complicating relief plans, the winter storm "Alexa" brought heavy snow and cold temperatures to the region much sooner than expected.

Amin Awad, UNHCR’s Director for the Middle East says, “The number of particularly vulnerable people in Al Hassakeh Governorate is estimated at 50,000 to 60,000 but we are still doing assessments. Hassakeh has been out of reach for a long time but this massive airlift will ensure that many thousands of needy Syrians receive the winter aid they require.”

Matthew Hollingworth, WFP’s Country Director in Syria, says “Our food assistance is reaching displaced families in 13 Governorates in Syria except for Al Hassakeh which we have not been able to reach consistently for over five months now due to insecurity on the roads. We cannot leave these victims of war hungry in one of the harshest winter months of the year in Syria.”

WFP is feeding close to 4 million Syrians inside the war-torn country as well as those who have fled to other countries in the Middle East. Malnutrition, especially among small children, is a major concern of relief agencies as food shortages persist. Humanitarian aid must reach all those in need.

Maria Calivis, UNICEF Middle East director, adds, “We have been particularly worried about the situation of children and families in the northern parts of Syria because of the insecurity and limited access. These airlifts will help ensure they have access to safe water and health care through the tough winter months ahead.”

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