In the first week of August, the U.N. flexed its creative muscle to provide food aid in Syria to internally displaced Syrians by hoisting supplies via crane over the walled-off Jordanian border. The process was monitored by drones on the other side.
The border was sealed following a June attack on the Jordanian military. The border closure is problematic for a number of reasons, one being that the World Food Programme (WFP) and other U.N. partners previously delivered supplies from Jordan to the 75,000 people living the area.
WFP representative and country director in Jordan, Mageed Yahia said that most of the people living in the region are women, children and the elderly. Many of these individuals are sick or wounded, and none of them have regular access to food or medicine.
The BBC reports that thousands of people have been migrating to this point at the border, a heavily entrenched area known as the berm since late last year. The number has ballooned because of strict immigration restrictions imposed by Jordan, limiting those who are allowed to cross. Of the 4.85 million Syrians registered as refugees with the U.N., 655,000 are hosted by Jordan.
Five years of war have left Syria broken, beaten and scarred, but there are still some 18 million people living in the country. Outside of the capital, Damascus, the Syrian people struggle to get by; 13.5 million of them are said to need humanitarian aid.
The war has destroyed Syria’s economy with an estimated cost of $255 billion, according to the Syrian Center for Policy Research. Unemployment stands at over 50 percent, a 36 percent increase since 2011. And yet, there are still those who have not given up hope.
The WFP and other organizations came together to devise this unconventional program of food aid in Syria in the spirit of providing temporary relief to those on the other side. The partners delivered 650 metric tons of aid to two locations over three days.
Of note, 70-meter-high cranes lifted pallets over the border in Rukban and Hadalat, lowering them into encampments on the other side. Items delivered included food from WFP, bread from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and hygiene kits from UNICEF.
The WFP is calling this operation a “one-off distribution,” and says that a long-term solution is necessary to meet the needs of the tens of thousands of displaced and hungry Syrians in the area. The Jordanian government has said that it will not allow future aid deliveries to the area due to concerns over security.
This instance of food aid in Syria may have been a singular effort, but it provided food to people who had not received aid in months. Furthermore, officials at the U.N. and the WFP are using their best efforts to come up with a sustainable, long-term solution to the problem.
– Aaron Parr