UN fears Syrian kids going hungry in battle zones
01 November 2013, 18:46
Geneva - The UN’s food aid agency said on Friday that it
feared a rise in malnutrition among children trapped in besieged communities in
Syria, where fighting has halted supply convoys.
"The World Food Programme [WFP] is concerned about
the fate of many Syrians trapped in conflict areas and still in need of urgent
food assistance," spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva.
"We are monitoring worrying reports emerging of
malnutrition among children in besieged areas," she said.
The WFP works hand in hand with Syria's Red Crescent to
distribute aid supplies to people in need, but their teams have been unable to
reach 38 different locations since mid-2012, notably around the capital
Damascus, Byrs said.
Among them is the town of Moadamiyet al-Sham, which has
been under siege for months by the Syrian army.
"We've tried unsuccessfully nine times to reach
Moadamiyet since last year," Byrs said.
Although about 3 000 people were evacuated last week, the
same number or more are still thought to be trapped there, according to the UN.
"We are very concerned about the situation of those
who remain," said Byrs.
There have been increasing reports that barring food aid
has been deployed as a tactic by the Syrian regime to starve out areas held by
Byrs declined to comment on that claim, referring to
But she cited government red tape, as well as the hurdles
posed by multiple checkpoints set up by different units on both sides in
"It depends on so many things. Of course it's the
situation when you have ongoing fighting you cannot access. When you're
prevented by armed forces from access, what can you do? You cannot risk the
lives of their volunteers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent or their
colleagues," said Byrs.
An estimated 115 000 people have been killed in Syria and
millions driven from their homes since a brutal crackdown on peaceful
pro-democracy protests in March 2011 escalated into civil war.
The WFP managed to provide food assistance to 2.7 million
in September and a record 3.3 million last month, when it was still 700 000
short of its target.
"Each time there is an opportunity, we just deliver
food. Sometimes it's possible, sometimes it's not possible," said Byrs.
Across Syria, there is little confirmed data about
possible malnutrition levels, and UN agencies are trying to build up a clearer
"We can only assume that the situation is getting
worse by the day," said Byrs.