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UN demands continued access to feed war victims in Syria

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The UN World Food Programme (WFP) yesterday demanded "continuous and sustainable access to provide food and to monitor and assess needs," in Homs, Syria and other parts of the war-torn country.

The Syrian government finally this week allowed humanitarian aid to be delivered to Homs after months of blocking access. Some civilians are being evacuated from Homs by the UN. However, attacks on aid convoys have taken place despite the ceasefire.

Ertharin Cousin, the WFP director, said, "The old city of Homs is just one of 40 besieged communities in Syria. Altogether a quarter of a million people have been cut off from humanitarian aid for months."

As the civil war has escalated so too have humanitarian needs. Food production has been ruined with farmers losing access to land and factories shelled. Children have died from malnutrition. Food prices have risen.

WFP is trying to feed at least 4.25 million people inside Syria as well as millions of refugees who have fled the country. The food needs though are continually increasing. The relief operation will likely have to scale up again. The UN just reported that in Syria an "estimated 6.3 million are highly vulnerable and in critical need of sustained food and agriculture assistance."

The biggest obstacle to WFP has been reaching the hungry who are trapped by the fighting between Assad's government and rebel groups. Recently, WFP airlifted food from Iraq into Northeastern Syria since roads were too dangerous to be traveled. Some areas, such as Homs, were blocked off from aid for months.

Another obstacle is funding. The UN food agency relies on voluntary donations from governments and the public. Given the size of the relief mission, a sum near US $ 2 billion will be needed this year alone to feed war victims in Syria and throughout the Middle East.

WFP has a relief fund set up for Syria.

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