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Syrians forced to flee receive food aid

This mother of four receives monthly food packages that include rice, pasta, chickpeas, lentils, oil and canned meat. (MCC photo/Emily Loewen)

September 28, 2020

By Janice Biehn

PWRDF has contributed $30,000 from its Canadian Foodgrains Bank equity towards a food distribution project in Syria that is now in its fifth month. The project has a total budget of more than $4 million CDN and is being led by the Mennonite Central Committee and implemented by the Forum for Development Culture and Dialogue. Food distribution will continue to March 2021.

This project will provide 12 months of food assistance to 6,000 Syrian households who have sought refuge in and around the Qalamoun Area, Rural Homs, Hama Villages and Rural Damascus. Food baskets include rice, bulgur, spaghetti, chickpeas, lentils, vegetable oil, olive oil, sugar, salt, canned meat, tea and tomato sauce.

Since the deadly conflict in Syria began in 2011, more than 6.6 million people have fled, leading to one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history. About 10% have sought safety in Europe but most have crossed into neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, who have struggled to cope with the influx of people.

However, not everyone is able to leave. A further estimated 6.7 million people are Internally Displaced People (IDPs) inside Syria, with 871,000 people living in “IDP sites of last resort,” according to the 2019 OCHA Humanitarian Needs Overview for Syria. Outbreaks of violence in northwest Syria in December 2019 and then in February 2020 have forced approximately 1 million people, mostly women and children, to leave their homes, seeking safety in other parts of the country.

COVID-19 has worsened the suffering of the Syrian people; they are not only in lockdown but now they have to worry about their health. Internally displaced families as well as host community families are all under the strain. They are not allowed to go out, making it very hard to earn a living. They are also worried about how to keep their families safe during this pandemic. Currently, most humanitarian aid organizations are prioritizing their food delivery programs while trying to simultaneously increase WASH (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene) programming to prevent infection and spread.

The project also includes measures to protect women who pick up the food baskets. To prevent harassment or assault during distribution, the implementing partner has chosen distribution points that are close to beneficiaries’ homes. If a beneficiary lives far away from the distribution point, staff will deliver the basket to the beneficiary’s home. Staff are also monitoring the distribution points and ensuring people don’t have to wait for their food basket for more than an hour.