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As aid runs out, Syria's displaced fear dying of hunger

By AFP - Dec 07,2023 - Last updated at Dec 07,2023

An aerial picture shows the the camp of Atma for displaced Syrians, on the outskirts of Idlib, in rebel-held north-western Syria, on Wednesday (AFP photo)

ATME, Syria — Displaced people in camps in northeast Syria have expressed fears about their future after the World Food Programme (WFP) announced the end of food assistance across the war-torn country.

"Stopping aid to the camps will exponentially increase suffering," said Ali Farahat, the director of the Maram camp for the displaced in the town of Atme near the border with Turkey.

"Some have told me 'if aid stops, we will die of hunger'," he told AFP on Wednesday.

In a statement issued on Monday, the WFP said it "regrets to announce the end of its general food assistance across Syria in January 2024 due to lack of funding".

The United Nations' food aid agency said it would "continue supporting families affected by emergency situations and natural disasters across the country through smaller and more targeted emergency response interventions".

It told AFP the "decision is based on funding, which is a global issue that WFP faces".

In September, the WFP had warned that insufficient funds had forced it to reduce assistance in various parts of the world, pushing an estimated 24 million people to the brink of famine.

In July, 45 per cent of aid recipients in Syria were cut from assistance, it said.

"WFP's activities by nature are fully scalable meaning they can be reduced or increased based on needs and available resources," the agency told AFP.

Around 3 million people live in areas controlled by the Hayat Tahrir Al Sham militant group in Idlib province.

Roughly half live in camps for the displaced, while others reside in abandoned buildings or caves, or even in old buildings and rusty buses.

Camps for the displaced are often overcrowded and lack basic needs, with residents depending principally on food, medical and other aid provided by international organisations.

Residents of those camps in north-eastern Syria, including Maram in Atme, are likely to be the hardest hit by the WFP decision.

Maram's residents could be seen queuing up to receive some of the last of their aid rations of the year.

"Stopping assistance will lead to the death of those who subsisted on them because they don't have money to buy food," said Ahmed Adla, 40, who was displaced 11 years ago from the village of Kurin in Idlib's countryside.

Khaled Masri, 45, displaced nearly 13 years ago from the nearby village of Hass along with 11 family members, said: "I hope they come to see our conditions and how we spend the winter. We can't keep our children warm."

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