This article was written by Wiliam Lambers and published in The Hill. Click here to read the article on The Hill’s website. Photo above: World Food Programme.
For Syria to survive as a nation, they must have food. The farmers must be able to grow and harvest their crops in peace.
But the four-year civil war has destroyed food production, the very heart of any nation. The fighting has left innocent civilians to starve.
That is why the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is calling for a ceasefire throughout Syria. It’s time to put down the guns and defeat the enemy of hunger.
WFP, the largest hunger relief organization, has been feeding close to 7 million of Syria’s war victims.
Ertharin Cousin, the director of WFP, pleads, “Farmers need peace to harvest and to move their produce to markets. I am urging all sides to allow this to happen.”
The international community must rally around food for peace in Syria. The fighting, which has increasingly targeted civilians, must be brought to an end.
An immediate ceasefire can accomplish several things. First, it can allow the farmers to do the nation’s most essential work of providing a food supply.
Secondly, humanitarian aid agencies can reach those blocked off by the fighting. The WFP and other partner agencies can provide food and other life-saving supplies for the besieged population. They need consistent access to those in need.
Any pause in the fighting can help create the conditions needed to build a lasting peace. As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the goal is a “transition from the Assad regime towards a government that represents all the people and can repair this extraordinary damage to Syria, unite the country, protect all minorities, and provide a legitimate future.”
All of Syria can immediately unite to grow food. The first step is the ceasefire.
As Cousin warns, “Without a humanitarian pause by all sides, providing unhindered access to Syrian food and opening up corridors for transport, people will still go hungry despite a good harvest, and prices for food will remain high.”
No peace can be built in Syria on empty stomachs. Farming must resume to rebuild the nation’s food supplies. Aid from the World Food Programme and others must reach those in need.
One of the most critical foods is a peanut paste called Plumpy’Doz, which prevents malnutrition in small children. Lack of food can cause lasting physical and mental damage in small children. It’s a race against time to provide the Plumpy’Doz and other life-saving foods.
The international community must support WFP and other relief agencies with enough funding. It’s difficult to sustain one of the largest humanitarian missions in history.
One of the more innovative ways to distribute the food aid has been through the use of vouchers for Syrian refugees in Jordan and other countries. These vouchers allow the refugees to buy food in local markets. But WFP needs funding to continue this program, which benefits refugees and host nations.
During the First World War the Hejaz Railway, which ran through Syria, was destroyed by fighting. When the WFP first came into existence, one of their initial projects was to provide food to Syrians in exchange for rebuilding that railroad.
We would like to see such food for work projects today to rebuild Syria from the ashes. There are millions of Syrians who long for that peaceful day. We can start on that road. But first the guns of Syria must go silent. Farmers must harvest again. Food for peace in Syria must prevail.
Lambers is the author of Ending World Hunger and the Road to Peace. His writings have been published by the New York Times, History News Network, Cincinnati Enquirer and the Cleveland Plain Dealer.