The director of the United Nations Refugee agency, António Guterres, said yesterday the Syrian conflict is the “worst threat to global peace and security since the last century. We are witnessing death and destruction, the collapse of the state and the enormous suffering of the people."
Guterres was in Iraq yesterday along with Ertharin Cousin, the director of the UN World Food Programme. The Kurdistan region of Iraq is giving refuge to 200,000 Syrians, including over 47,000 who have arrived in the last two weeks. Most of these are women and children.
For the smallest children, there is the greatest risk of malnutrition. Lack of food at an early age can cause lasting physical and mental damage. Some of the refugees had originally fled to Northeastern Syria, only to be displaced again to Iraq.
The UN is facing a relief effort on two fronts with regard to Syria. First is providing aid inside the war-torn country. The WFP is trying to feed around four million Syrians trapped by the conflict. The second part is aiding over two million Syrians who have fled to Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries.
The UN is short on funding as they face one of the largest humanitarian missions in a generation. The WFP alone needs US $ 30 million a week to feed Syrian war victims. The WFP and other UN relief agencies depend on voluntary funding from governments and the public.
Earlier this week tents, high energy-biscuits, nutritional bars and other foods were airlifted and trucked into Iraq for the refugees. The ready-to-eat foods provide quick and easy distribution in a crisis. The U.S. Food for Peace program contributed food to the mission.
In Iraq, WFP is also providing food vouchers each month to refugees. Director Cousin notes, “That translates into $10.5 million worth of business to local shops. Through these vouchers, refugees are providing commerce to these communities while also having access to fresh and nutritious food.”
Another enemy of the Syrian refugees will eventually be the weather. The Governor of Erbil in Kurdistan, Mr. Nawzad Hadi, said “time is not our friend. We need to prepare for winter.”