Kofi Annan is stepping down as the special international envoy for Syria.
He says he cannot go on when he does not have the backing of the United Nations Security Council.
Meanwhile, a new menace faces the people of Syria.
Farms and crops are being abandoned because of the fighting; and the specter of widespread hunger now looms over the war-torn nation.
An assessment published Thursday by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program says three million people there need food assistance for the next six months.
Caroline Hurford, a spokesperson for the World Food Program in London, says the situation is very serious and it will be difficult to get aid to some areas, given the security situation.
The report says that in addition to the drop in food production, there are also problems with distribution network.
Irrigation systems have also been damaged.
Food is scarce in many areas, and increasingly expensive.
Agricultural laborers have also lost wages.
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Aaron Schachter: The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria says he’s quitting. Kofi Annan won’t be looking to renew his mandate when it expires at the end of this month. His mission to try and negotiate a peaceful end to the violence in Syria has been frustrated by the ongoing fighting on the ground. But today, Annan also said he cannot go on without the backing of the UN Security Council.
Kofi Annan: At the time when we need, when the Syrian people desperately need action, there continues to be finger pointing and name calling in the security council.
Schachter: Western powers, including the United States, have been unable to prevent Russia and China from vetoing action on Syria by the Security Council. Also, today there was another dire warning for the people of Syria. The UN’s agriculture organization and the World Food Program say three million Syrians will need assistance over the next six months. Farms and crops are being abandoned because of the fighting and the specter of widespread hunger looms over the war torn nation. Caroline Hurford is a spokesperson for the World Food Program in London. Caroline, explain to me how bad this food crisis really is in Syria. You know, we think of places in Africa where there have been droughts for years and wars for years, as you know, incredible trouble spots. Is Syria getting to that point? Is that what we’re talking about?
Caroline Hurford: It’s really difficult to compare, you know, because clearly, Syria would not be comparable with various countries in Africa, certainly that I’ve visited, but at the same time when you’ve had 16 months of conflict, people haven’t been able to farm their land. They’ve also gone way perhaps to fight in this war, who knows. And it seems the whole country has really been held for ransom as it were by this ongoing conflict with no particular end in sight. So I’d say that the situation is really dire because clearly we will need to be bringing in more food simply because they haven’t been able to produce enough themselves. And to do that, obviously you’ve got to have the right sort of corridors. You’ve got to have the right sort of mechanisms working.
Schachter: And how do you do that considering the war that’s going on, three million people around the country of Syria in need of food assistance. How do you get the assistance to them?
Hurford: Well, you’ve really hit it spot on there because as it happened we are struggling to supply people in the embattled city of Aleppo, which is Syria’s second city, but it happens to be the most populous. We’ve just sent enough for 28,000 people over the next few days, having fed approximately 48,000 people. But we’re talking about a population of three million here, so in some ways you know, it’s not enough and we need to really redouble our efforts. But of course we’re finding it difficult to get either the trucks or the people, and indeed when we get to the outskirts of Aleppo the situation is extremely dangerous. And while we’re working with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, sometimes it’s even too dangerous for these guys to come up and they are the bravest of the brave.
Schachter: Now it isn’t just farming that’s a problem or livestock as you said, but deforestation is another issue. Why is that happening now?
Hurford: Well that’s essentially because the farmers have been turning back to the forest to collect firewood and I perhaps should’ve mentioned the fact that there’s obviously a shortage of cooking gas and fuel, what with the continuing fighting going on. And some irrigation channels have also been clogged and damaged due to the lack of people around to maintain them. So therefore we are really looking at a very severe pattern across the rural part of Syria where people will need help to get back on their feet.
Schachter: Caroline Hurford, spokeswoman for the World Food Program, thank you for joining us.
Hurford: Thank you very much.
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