The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today it has started distributing urgently needed food to people displaced by the recent surge in violence in Syria’s northern Aleppo.
The food was transported on cross-border convoys from Turkey into the small town of A’zaz in northwest Syria, 30 kilometres northwest of Aleppo city and close to the Syrian-Turkish border. Over the next few days, distributions will reach 21,000 people with more food to meet the urgent needs of the new wave of displaced people.
“The situation is quite volatile and fluid in northern Aleppo with families on the move seeking safety,” said Jakob Kern, WFP’s Country Director in Syria, in a press release.
“We are extremely concerned as access and supply routes from the north to eastern Aleppo city and surrounding areas are now cut off but we are making every effort to get enough food in place for all those in need, bringing it in through the remaining open border crossing point from Turkey,” he added.
The food includes rice, lentils, bulgur, pasta, white beans, chickpeas, vegetable oil, sugar and wheat flour in parcels that are enough to feed a family for one month. WFP is also sending ready-to-eat rations such as canned food for those who have no access to cooking facilities.
According to the agency, thousands of displaced people have gathered in A’zaz in search of refuge close to the Bab Al Salam border crossing point, and thousands more are expected to arrive if the fighting continues. More than 30,000 people are reported to be on the move, many of them fleeing towards the Turkish border, and the towns of A'zaz and Afrin.
Prior to the escalation in fighting in northern Aleppo, WFP was regularly delivering food across the Turkish border into Aleppo and Idleb governorates through the Bab al-Hawa and Bab al-Salam border crossings.
“WFP urges all parties to the conflict to facilitate unimpeded access to these communities in order to provide immediate relief to families who have already suffered for far too long,” Mr. Kern added.
At a press briefing in Geneva, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in northern Aleppo have also been providing assistance and humanitarian relief to internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Meanwhile, the Turkish authorities have been accepting a number of vulnerable and wounded people into the country. According to UNHCR’s spokesperson, William Spindler, WFP asked Turkey to open its border to all civilians from Syria who are fleeing danger and seeking international protection. Moreover, he said there has to be a political solution to the conflict but that in the meantime, UNHCR is “dealing with its consequences on the humanitarian side.”
Mr. Spindler also noted that there have been humanitarian deliveries from Turkey close to the border, where about 5,000 people are hosted in communal tents in the vicinity of Kilis. He underscored that Turkey has had a very generous policy in terms of receiving refugees, and that all countries have an obligation to open their borders to people fleeing persecution.