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'Devastating': Suspension of Food Assistance Threatens 1.7 Million Syrians With Hunger

'This couldn't come at a worse time'

Street art by Syrian refugees in Iraq. Mural reads:  "Hope gives wings to humanity."  (Photo: Samantha Robison/ European Commission DG ECHO/flickr/cc)

"This couldn't come at a worse time," stated UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.

Guterres's comment is in response to the UN World Food Programme's announcement Monday that it was suspending its food assistance to Syrian refugees as a result of a "funding crisis."

The suspension of the program means that many of the over 1.7 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries that had depended on the program's food vouchers to buy food will now go hungry, the WFP states.

The suspension "will endanger the health and safety of these refugees and will potentially cause further tensions, instability and insecurity in the neighboring host countries," stated WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.

Many of the refugees are in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, and already faced lack of access to necessary hygiene, clothing, shelter, and more.

With the cold winter season about to hit, these refugees may find themselves further on the brink, the agencies warn.

"Winter is already an extremely difficult period for Syrian refugees, but the suspension of food assistance at this critical juncture is going to be devastating," Guterres's statement continued.

The conflict that has gripped the country since 2011 has created over 3 million refugees—roughly half the country's population. The UN refugee office has called it "the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era."

As Common Dreams reported last month,

According to [Raed Jarrar, expert on Middle East politics and Policy Impact Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee], a "real solution" to the refugee crisis does not lie in the "charitable" responses proposed by the UN, but in a long-term political and social response which engages and empowers people who are directly impacted by the violence. "The solutions for the displaced people is not resettlement or to keep them in limbo where they live," argues Jarrar. "The real solution is to create the conditions at home to allow for a voluntary repatriation and deal with the root causes that displace them. That is the most important thing to focus on with this humanitarian crisis."

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