04/09/2014, 00.00
SYRIA - UNITED NATIONS
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Drought in Syria could bring hunger to 6.5 million people

According to the United Nations, rainfall since September has been less than half the long-term average, reducing wheat yields. This comes at a time when food parcels to Syrian families were cut by 20 per cent because of a drop in donors' contribution.

Damascus (AsiaNews) - The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is warning that below average rainfall since September 2013 might add further misery to a country torn by a civil war that has already cost more than 100,000 lives. Low rainfall has led to lower wheat yields, which could put some 6.5 million people at risk of hunger.

The WFP also announced that it had to cut the size of its food parcels to Syrian families by 20 per cent. It blamed delays in receiving funds from international donors, saying it has only received 22 per cent of the funds it needs for its operations in Syria.

The shortfall is due to the world's economic crisis and the instability of a country effectively split in two by a war that has pitted President Assad's regular against armed rebels that include Islamic fundamentalists.

One of its victims was Jesuit priest Frans Van Lugt who was shot dead by unidentified gunmen. He had chosen to remain in Homs despite serious food shortages in order to help secure food (as much as possible) for Christians and Muslims.

In February 2014, AsiaNews carried the clergyman's touching video appeal to "all parties involved" to ensure access food supplies for the survival of civilians, who are going "mad with hunger".

According to the United Nations, some 4.2 million Syrians are still at risk of hunger. Should the drought persist, that number could jump to 6.5 million.

This would force Syria to import more than the 5.1 million tonnes of wheat it needed last year.

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