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UN agency faces overwhelming Syrian hunger

Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The number of Syrians needing food aid has shot upward five times in recent months as civil war rages across the country, the director of the United Nation’s food program on said Monday.

From 250,000 people in April, those facing hunger has grown to 1.5 million, according to the most recent assessment of the U.N.’s World Food Program, agency director Ertharin Cousin said. The U.N. has only managed to feed half that number so far, she said.

“If we don’t provide them with the food assistance that is required, they will go hungry,” Cousin said.

She said the World Food Program had raised $78 million, but needed an additional $60 million to cover the dramatic rise in those needing food. The U.N. provides food basics like flour and tea to families.

Cousin said the problem wasn’t that donors weren’t giving money, but that the number of people in need was outpacing funding. She said the crisis was likely to worsen as Syria’s wet, chilly winter rolls in.

The dramatic rise underscores how fighting across Syria has forced families to leave their homes with little hope of supporting themselves elsewhere. Many are living in schools in nearby towns.

Cousin said the agency was struggling to reach families in conflict areas in around the capital Damascus, and in the cities of Aleppo and Homs.

The U.N. also provides food and vouchers for 250,000 Syrian refugees in neighboring Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

She says donor countries also need to exert diplomatic pressure to ensure the Syrian government allows access to those in need.

Cousin praised donors for averting a famine in the drought-ridden Sahel area of West Africa, by quickly sending in aid that provided emergency nutrition to over 10 million people across Niger, Chad, Senegal and Burkina Faso. Conflict in Mali has also exacerbated the situation.

But she said they still needed to raise $228 million of $888 million dollars to ensure that millions of people could still obtain food aid before the next harvest season begins.

“We don’t know what the harvest will bring,” she said.

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