WFP seeks to feed 2.5 million Syrians
GENEVA - The UN food agency said on Tuesday it was dramatically expanding its aid operation in Syria to reach one million more people, in the face of growing alarm over the situation in the war-torn country.
"In February, we hope to scale up our operations and reach 1.75 million, then two million in March, and 2.5 million vulnerable Syrians in April," said Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the World Food Programme.
Since September, the WFP has been feeding some 1.5 million vulnerable Syrians with around 400 truckloads of food each month.
Access to opposition-controlled areas has been particularly difficult, as it involves crossing battle frontlines, while the Syrian government has maintained restrictions on international aid group operations.
Byrs said the WFP had been able to send supplies to between 40 and 50 percent of opposition-controlled areas, and was also reaching government areas, although she did not elaborate.
"Aid is based on need, not political labels," she said.
Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said the situation in Syria had deteriorated sharply.
"We've called the situation critical before. We're at the point where we're calling it catastrophic," he told reporters in Geneva.
"If the violence continues unabated, in the short term we could see considerably more than the current four million in need of urgent assistance, and more than two million internally displaced in Syria," Laerke said.
"In the face of this human tragedy, organisations are struggling to reach more people, in more places, with more aid, but lack of access is still a major obstacle."
The UN estimates that more than 60,000 people have been killed since the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad's regime began in March 2011.
More than 730,000 Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries.