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Helping to support vulnerable families and children in Syria

In its latest report on Syria, the United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that food aid reached around 1.1 million people in February. With the worsening food security situation, UN agencies are planning to try to reach even more people over the coming months.

By April, the World Food Programme (WFP) aims to have supplied 2.5 million Syrians with food. To achieve this, it is working directly with six additional non-governmental organisations. The re-opening up of a supply route from Jordan to Syria will help the scaling-up process, with over 370 metric tonnes of food dispatched in one month via this route.

Meanwhile, the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) has supplied 1,000 pastoral families with animal feed packages. It has also supported more than 2,000 other farming families by providing agricultural supplies, poultry and pregnant sheep. And more than 900 seed packages have been distributed in Rural Damascus.

The UN’s child agency, UNICEF, has been providing family hygiene kits to help prevent water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea. UNICEF has also been delivering other essential non-food items, such as blankets and clothes. The agency has continued to provide psychosocial support to more than 30,000 children in Damascus, Rural Damascus, Homs and Aleppo. In addition, school clubs are being run, benefiting around 50,000 children, and essential school supplies have been given to more than 80,000 youngsters. In Homs, 4,600 children and adolescents are being given remedial classes in 14 shelters.

These activities represent some of the wide-ranging work being carried out by the UN and its organisations, often in extremely dangerous situations. Since the crisis began two years ago, eight UN staff members have lost their lives, with many more volunteers in other aid organisations, such as the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, also having died.

However, the UN has warned that such humanitarian activities can only continue with international assistance. As yet, much of the international aid pledged by countries to help Syria has yet to materialise. Around 1 billion dollars in funding was promised to neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey which are hosting refugees and a further 500 million dollars for humanitarian aid inside Syria. However, so far very little of this pledged funding has been received. One of the UN’s organisations yet to gain any extra aid money is the World Health Organisation (WHO). Speaking to the Guardian last week, the head of the WHO in Syria said “we have not received any fresh money as of today”.

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