The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has announced that food scarcity in Syria will cause either mass starvation or mass migration unless further financial aid is made available.
The announcement came in the run-up to the fourth Brussels conference (a major fundraising event), which will meet virtually on the 30th of June 2020. As the Syrian economy has crashed amid the ongoing conflict, worsened by the challenges posed by the outbreak of COVID-19, food prices have skyrocketed. David Beasley, the head of the WFP spoke to the BBC on the morning of 29th June 2020 and stated that nearly half of all Syrians go to bed hungry, stressing that action needs to happen now and that people are already dying of starvation. Mark Lowcock, Emergency Relief Coordinator for the UN, argues that, if money is given, and given quickly, prompt change can happen.
A document released by Humanitarian Response, a branch of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has outlined where such funds are needed, and what they would be used for. The WFP requires $200 million to sustain its current level of support for approximately 4.8 million people and would need another $88 million to support the further 1.4 million people that are “newly food insecure”. This funding only covers food assistance and not other important areas such as hygiene, housing, education, healthcare, and agriculture. Further funds and resources are also needed to tackle more complex issues such as fostering economic growth, tackling gender-based violence, and logistical coordination between refugee camps.
Most funding comes in the form of aid from other governments, and aid from NGOs – specifically the Syria Cross-Border Humanitarian Fund, the Syria Humanitarian Fund, and the Central Emergency Response Fund. Governments are facing increased pressure to conserve funds to tackle coronavirus at home, and NGOs are being forced to spend more in response to the outbreak. There is also a fear that, because the Syrian War has been ongoing for so long, there is an element of “Western fatigue” when it comes to giving aid, resulting in aid budgets being cut.
Whilst access and security are complex challenges when it comes to delivering international aid, lack of funding may be a big challenge, but it is not a complicated one. There is not a global shortage of money. Jeff Bezos is set to become the world’s first trillionaire by 2026 (despite losing $38 billion in a recent divorce), the annual US military budget is $721.5 billion, and the UK has just announced that the cost covered by taxpayers to paint Boris Johnson’s plane will be £900 thousand (over $1 million). There is not a global shortage of food either. According to research done by The Guardian, we already have enough food to feed the projected 9 billion strong population which is expected by 2050 – we just need to distribute better. Capitalism places profit over need, and its constant disaster cycles have continuously placed reoccurring profits with the same few people. This crisis is yet another example of a failure of distribution caused by the current global economic system.
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