WFP Syria Crisis Response - External Situation Update for Syria, January 2016

Situation Report
Originally published



  • 3.6 million people received WFP food assistance in January 24 percent of the food assistance was delivered to high conflict areas

  • 97,500 people in several hard to reach and besieged locations in Rural Damascus, Idleb and Homs governorate received lifesaving WFP food assistance

  • Various donors, including Germany, made unprecedented pledges at the London Conference to WFP’s Syria response


Aleppo Governorate

The Syrian army, backed by the Russian air force, launched a large scale offensive at the end of January on the northern rural countryside of Aleppo governorate.

Continuous fighting and fierce aerial bombardment resulted in the displacement of some 50,000 to 70,000 people from targeted areas around Aleppo city to date. The majority of the people sought safety in areas surrounding the Bab al Salam crossing point as well as in A’zaz city, while others fled to the Kurdish controlled area of Afrin, northern Idleb governorate and ISIL controlled areas. The situation remains extremely fluid, and as violence continues, many more people may be displaced. In response, WFP has provided food assistance in support of 10,000 newly displaced civilians through cross-border partners working from Turkey as of 11 February, while an additional 40,000 IDPs will receive food assistance in the coming days. In addition, WFP provided 50 mt of wheat flour to Nobul and Zahra, following the governments advance on the two towns in central northern Aleppo governorate that broke a three-year siege by opposition forces.

Dar’a Governorate

In the southern governorate of Dar’a, government forces continued the offensive launched in November and took control of Sheikh Meskin and Atman at the end of January and beginning of February respectively. The fighting to take control over the cities and the subsequent displacement of civilians from surrounding villages in eastern and western rural Dar’a governorate led to the displacement of some 65,000 people within opposition-held areas, with some towns such as Sheikh Meskin and Western Ghariyyeh completely devoid of civilians. In response, in early February, WFP delivered supplies for 48,000 people through its cross-border operations from Jordan as contingency stock to assist the newly displaced families.

Deir Ezzor Governorate

ISIL launched an assault on the besieged government-held enclave in Deir Ezzor city in mid-January, resulting in fierce clashes in neighborhoods bordering the Euphrates River as well as in the vicinity of the Deir Ezzor airbase. The assault lead to the displacement of some 16,000 civilians with most seeking refuge in other government-held areas while fewer people were displaced to ISIL controlled areas of the city Recent developments are likely to further compromise an already alarming food security situation among the estimated 150,000 people residing in five government-held neighbourhoods of the city, besieged by surrounding ISIL forces since early 2015. The siege is resulting in critical food shortages, while the limited available items are sold at prohibitive prices and are unaffordable for most of the families. As a result, the entire besieged population in the city is severely food insecure and needs urgent humanitarian support. Since mid-2015,
WFP has been attempting to facilitate emergency airlifts todeliver life-saving food supplies to the besieged population.

However, in spite of obtaining the necessary approvals, efforts have so far been hampered due to the insecurity around the airport and damaged runways, which make it too risky for aircrafts to land.

Rural Damascus and Idleb Governorates

Alarming food insecurity levels were reported in besieged towns in Rural Damascus and Idleb governorates during the reporting period, following months of restricted humanitarian and commercial access that hindered essential food, nutrition and health supplies from entering the locations while people were unable to leave.

In Moadamiyeh, a town south of Damascus city and home to 45,000 civilians, residents have faced a sharp deterioration of the humanitarian situation over the last months due to increased access restrictions, particularly with regards to food and medical supplies. Although no deaths from starvation were reported, cases of malnutrition emerged while eight people died due to a lack of proper medical care in January alone. In response, the UN, including WFP, submitted two requests to deliver food and other humanitarian supplies inside the town, which have not been approved to date.

In the besieged towns of Madaya and Bqine in Rural Damascus, where 84 percent of the 42,000 civilians are food insecure according to WFPs 2015 Food Security Assessment, credible sources reported numerous cases of malnutrition and subsequent deaths from starvation, as almost no humanitarian or commercial supplies have reached the towns since mid-October 2015. As a result, essential food supplies were unavailable at local markets while remaining commodities were sold at incredulous prices; one kg of sugar was sold at SYP 80,000 (USD 205) and the price of 900 grams of baby milk rose to SYP 110,000 (USD 282). As a result, residents have been forced to subsist on soup made of boiled grass and at most a fraction of a cup of rice daily.

Similarly, in the besieged towns of Foah and Kefraya in Idleb governorate, credible sources reported acute shortages of food, medical items and fuel in the enclave. Local sources reported that up to 70 percent of the farmland was inaccessible while the two bakeries in the villages were forced to close down due to a lack of flour, yeast and fuel. As a result, prices have increased sharply, with sugar for example being 20 times more expensive than at local markets in Damascus.

In response to the dire humanitarian situation in the aforementioned locations, WFP submitted numerous requests to access the locations following the last delivery of humanitarian supplies in mid-October 2015. Access approval was finally granted at the end of December, after which WFP delivered life-saving food and wheat flour assistance for a total of 80,000 people as well as much-needed fuel in January (see WFP response section for details).