Tag Archives: Middle East

Instead of sending weapons to the Middle East, we should be sending food

President Trump’s new arms agreement with Saudi Arabia ignores the most urgent threat in the Middle East: famine.

Yemen is on the brink of starvation because of a civil war between a Saudi-led coalition and rebels. Sending more arms to Saudi Arabia will strengthen its military machine to further wage war in Yemen. As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “many of the armaments we’re providing to Saudi Arabia will help them be much more precise and targeted with many of their strikes.”

What we should be doing instead is providing food to Yemen.

See my full commentary at The Hill:

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Yemen: the Forgotten Famine

Yemen has been in the news this week after Al Qaeda attacked a military base in the southern part of the country. Both the Al Qaeda and ISIS terrorist groups are operating in Yemen, which has been in chaos from a civil war since last year.

But what has not made the news is the biggest threat of all to Yemen: famine.

See my full commentary at the Huffington Post:

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A Plan for Helping Syrian Refugee Children

Last summer in the New York Times I wrote about the importance of school meals for children victimized by the war in Syria. We can do so much more for them, as we did for children in Europe and Asia affected by World War II.

Lebanon is one of the main countries where Syrians have fled to during the last five years of civil war. But once the refugees arrive they face all kinds of challenges just to have the basics of food and shelter. They have little or no resources.

Read my full commentary at The Huffington Post.

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Syria airdrops are “glimmer of hope” in darkness of war

United Nations advisor Jan Egeland said Thursday that the World Food Programme (WFP) made two airdrops in one day of life-saving food into the besieged Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor.

Deir ez-Zor has been under attack by the ISIS terrorist group since 2014. There have been alarming reports of food shortages and hunger in the city.

Humanitarian convoys cannot travel by road into Deir ez-Zor because of the ISIS threat. So the WFP decided to resort to airdrops to reach around 200,000 starving civilians.

To avoid being shot down by ISIS, the planes have to fly at a very high altitude. This makes the food drops much more difficult to reach the landing zone. So it took extra time for WFP to improve the consistency of the food drops.

WFP has now done 15 total airdrops of food, which are distributed on the ground by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. Egeland said, “there are large distributions inside Deir ez-Zor and we are reaching now soon everybody with food rations for civilians in Deir ez-Zor.”

The Syrian civil war, now five years old, has caused a severe hunger crisis. Peace talks and ceasefires between the government and opposition have not held.

Humanitarian access remains limited or non-existent in many areas throughout Syria. The combatants often block aid agencies from delivering supplies. In the city of Darayya the “nutrition situation is very bad” and the UN is urging the Syrian government to let humanitarian aid through.

Over 4 million people inside Syria depend on life-saving food from the WFP. Reaching the starving civilians is the great challenge WFP and other humanitarian agencies are facing. That is why a peace settlement is so urgent.

The emergence of ISIS from the chaos of war has worsened the situation drastically. The terrorists occupy a large amount of territory and have caused widespread displacement and hunger.

There is also the challenge of funding. The airdrops, for example, are extremely costly.

Will WFP have enough funding to continue to provide food into the besieged areas by air? That is an extreme concern as noted by UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura who said “they will be requiring more funds, but I hope there will be no problem because for an operation like that, which is quite unique and can be replicated elsewhere, funds should not be a problem.”

The United States Food for Peace program is a major source of funding for the humanitarian mission. Will Congress give Food for Peace the funding it needs to meet the Syria emergency and others around the globe, especially with so many at once? Will other countries be encouraged to keep up donations?

Until the war ends, hunger will remain a powerful enemy of Syria. The international community needs to support millions of innocent Syrians who are victims of a savage civil war.

Read the full article at Examiner.

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Food for Peace to the rescue in Iraq

Iraqis displaced by the war with ISIS are desperate for food. The United States Food for Peace program has come through again to help these war victims.

Food for Peace, run by the U.S. Agency for International Development, has just donated $ US 41 million to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Iraq. The WFP, the lead hunger relief agency, will distribute the Food for Peace donations.

Jane Pearce, the WFP country director in Iraq, says “I am delighted that the United States remains committed to working with WFP to deliver food assistance to Iraq’s most vulnerable populations. This generous and timely contribution from USAID’s FFP will help mitigate the suffering of many, as humanitarian needs outpace available resources.”

The donations will allow WFP to feed more than one million Iraqis for two and half months. Food vouchers and emergency rations will also be provided.

WFP relies on voluntary donations and Food for Peace is their largest source. Food for Peace, started by President Dwight Eisenhower, has fed billions since 1954. The program was started in order to send U.S. surplus food overseas to feed the hungry.

However, cuts to Food for Peace funding have been proposed in the latest presidential budget. This move is seen as a disaster by relief agencies and advocates as food aid is crucial with the record number of refugees around the world.

Read the full article at Examiner.

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Syrian refugees and hunger: An interview with Caroline Brennan of CRS

The Syrian Civil War just reached its fifth dreadful anniversary. The war has led to the worst humanitarian crisis of our generation.

Millions of Syrians have fled their homeland seeking refuge in other Middle Eastern countries and even onto Europe. The refugees can escape the fighting, but hunger and poverty follow them.

They need the help of humanitarian agencies like Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Since World War II, CRS has come to the rescue of displaced civilians and the Syria crisis is one of its biggest operations ever.

Caroline Brennan of CRS is a senior communications officer in their Humanitarian Response Department. She recently took time to answer questions about the hunger crisis facing the Syrian refugees and what people can do to help.


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Can task force ensure humanitarian aid for Syrians?

On Friday the Task Force on Humanitarian Access in Syria met in Geneva to discuss plans for bringing life-saving supplies immediately into besieged areas. There are currently 500,000 Syrians who are starving in areas blocked off by the combatants of the brutal civil war.

Read the full article at Examiner:

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U.S., Russia agree on humanitarian aid, ceasefire for Syria

Secretary of State John Kerry said tonight that agreement has been reached in war-torn Syria for the delivery of life-saving humanitarian aid to civilians. Kerry stated “We have agreed to accelerate and expand the delivery of humanitarian aid beginning immediately.”

Kerry made the announcement at a meeting in Munich, Germany with Russian foreign minister Sergey V. Lavrov and the International Syria Support Group, which consists of the U.S., Russia and multiple nations.

Kerry also announced a nationwide cessation of hostilities to take place within a week. The hope is for a political solution to follow, which would finally end the five-year civil war.

The fighting between the government and the opposition has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions. There are over 13 million Syrians in need of humanitarian aid.

But there are an estimated half a million Syrians currently blocked from receiving food, medicine and other supplies. Civilians have been starving to death as the warring sides have prevented food convoys from reaching besieged areas.

A special task force would oversee the humanitarian access throughout Syria. In a statement also released tonight the International Syria Support Group said:

sustained delivery of assistance shall begin this week by air to Deir Ez Zour and simultaneously to Fouah, Kafrayah, the besieged areas of Rural Damascus, Madaya, Mouadhimiyeh, and Kafr Batna by land, and continue as long as humanitarian needs persist. Humanitarian access to these most urgent areas will be a first step toward full, sustained, and unimpeded access throughout the country.”

Five years of civil war has caused extreme food shortages. In recent weeks increased fighting and a blockade of Aleppo has caused massive suffering among Syrians.

Jakob Kern of the World Food Programme (WFP) in Syria said this week “The situation is quite volatile and fluid in northern Aleppo with families on the move seeking safety. We are extremely concerned as access and supply routes from the north to eastern Aleppo city and surrounding areas are now cut off but we are making every effort to get enough food in place for all those in need, bringing it in through the remaining open border crossing point from Turkey.”

The WFP and other agencies need quick access to Aleppo. But it was not clear if the Syrian government offensive, backed by Russia, would cease. Russian airstrikes have been supporting the Syrian regime.

A nationwide Syria ceasefire, if implemented, can allow humanitarians to bring life-saving aid to war victims in Aleppo and elsewhere. The ceasefire would not include ISIS and other terrorist groups which have benefited from the chaos caused by the conflict.

The Syrian civil war has brought their country to ruin. Only a ceasefire, peace agreements and humanitarian aid can save Syria.

Read the full article at Examiner.

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Save the Syrian Peace Talks, End the Starvation

Never again. We hear those words in reaction to atrocities committed against mankind. But we have to put actions behind those words.

Syrian civilians under siege from a civil war are trying to survive eating leaves and grass. They are pleading for the international community for help. But the war and hunger goes on.

Read the full commentary at The Huffington Post.

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UN official says Yemeni cities low on food

Food supplies are starting to reach the Yemeni city of Taiz, which has been under siege from a civil war. Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, has been engulfed in conflict since last year.

Read the full article at Examiner.

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