UN says 1 million Syrians going hungry in combat zones

Fighting erupts at refugee camp in north Jordan

Rain and falling temperatures made life miserable Tuesday for about 7,000 people in a refugee camp near the Syrian town of Azaz near the Turkish border.
AFP/Getty Images
Rain and falling temperatures made life miserable Tuesday for about 7,000 people in a refugee camp near the Syrian town of Azaz near the Turkish border.

New signs of deprivation plaguing Syria’s war-ravaged civilians emerged on Tuesday, with the United Nations saying it is unable to feed a million hungry residents in combat zones .

Aid agencies reported an outbreak of violence in a large refugee camp in Jordan, where a winter storm felled tents and left many frustrated inhabitants shivering in a cold rain.

Weather forecasters said another storm was threatening Syria and its neighbors with snow on Wednesday.


The World Food Program, an agency of the UN, said it was providing food to 1.5 million people inside Syria this month but that as many as 2.5 million needed help, mostly in areas made hazardous by fighting between insurgents and loyalist forces of President Bashar Assad.

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“Our partners are overstretched and there is no capacity to expand operations further; we need more implementing partners,’’ said a World Food Program spokeswoman, Elizabeth Byrs, at the agency’s Geneva headquarters.

She also said acute fuel shortages in Syria had delayed food deliveries and contributed to severe inflation in the price of bread because bakeries needed fuel for their ovens. In the contested northern city of Aleppo, for example, the price of a kilogram of bread is now 250 Syrian pounds, or about $3.50, at least 50 percent higher than in other parts of Syria and at least six times more than its cost when the Syrian conflict began nearly two years ago.

The UN appealed last month for $1.5 billion in additional aid to handle the growing crisis created by the Syrian conflict, which has left at least 60,000 people dead and is threatening to destabilize the Middle East. More than half a million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries, and the UN refugee agency has forecast a doubling of that number by the middle of 2013.

The most heavily burdened neighbors — Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon — have been persistently calling for more international aid, particularly during the cold winter months.


At the Zaatari refugee camp, which shelters 54,000 Syrians in northern Jordan, fighting erupted Tuesday during food distribution after a night of relentless rain inundated parts of the encampment. The number of injuries was unclear.

A statement by the Jordanian police said two aid workers had been hurt. Save the Children, one of the international groups that helps the UN refugee agency administer the camp, said 11 people had been hurt, more than half of them Save the Children workers.

“The incident followed a night of heavy storms, during which torrential rains and high winds swept away tents and left parts of the camp flooded,’’ Save the Children said.

Mohammed Abu Asaker, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency, acknowledged weather-related problems at the camp, aggravated by a large number of new residents — roughly 9,000 arrivals in the past week.

“It is a difficult situation in the camp,’’ he said. ‘‘There is a frustration from the refugees.’’


Ali Bibi, a liaison officer with the refugee agency, said the violence on Tuesday was the latest in a series of at least four clashes among refugees, aid workers, and the police in recent weeks.