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UN facing serious funding shortfall to feed Syria

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The UN World Food Programme (WFP), in a report released today, says its "operations in Syria are facing a serious funding shortfall." According to the report only 4 percent of funding requirements have been received. It has been estimated that it will cost US $ 2 billion this year alone to feed Syrians.

WFP relies on voluntary donations from governments and the public. The relief mission in war-torn Syria is among the largest and most difficult in the history of the United Nations.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stated, "Despite the dangerous circumstances, UN humanitarian agencies and our partners are reaching millions of people. But too many millions are beyond our reach. And funding continues to fall short; I urge the international community to step up its contributions."

The funding shortage will soon impact WFP's relief mission to feed 4 million inside Syria. The UN food agency says, "should significant contributions not be immediately forthcoming, WFP will be forced to further reduce food rations in March and April."

WFP is struggling to bring food aid through conflict zones to reach the hungry. In the last month some areas in Damascus and Homs received WFP food deliveries for the first time in many months.

WFP was able to enter Homs in early February following a ceasefire. Food and other supplies were brought in to the city, while some people were evacuated. Signs of malnutrition were present among the population after months of limited food supplies.

WFP says, "Some families recounted not having eaten bread for over five months and living off grass, olives and weeds to survive." Families who were evacuated were brought to feeding centers to receive canned food, fruit juice and special nutritional products for infants such as Plumpy'Doz. There were 500 families remaining in Homs who received food parcels to last one month.

The delivery of Plumpy'Doz and Nutributter throughout Syria is critical for preventing malnutrition in infants. WFP plans to to feed 240,000 children aged 6-23 months Plumpy'Doz and Nutributter. Some areas have received the food. However, "access constraints in the north-east and a severe shortage of experienced technical partners have hindered a rapid scale up of the intervention."

Now low funding may also prevent food distributions from taking place. WFP also plans to feed close to 3 million Syrian refugees throughout the Middle East.

WFP has set up a Syria relief fund for donations.

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