The war in Syria has caused a hunger emergency in the Middle East. On Thanksgiving Eve it was announced that the U.S. Food for Peace program is donating US $125 million to feed the war victims.
The donation will go to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), which is feeding over four million Syrians inside the war-torn country. Over two million Syrian refugees are receiving food in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
Years of civil war has left cities and towns in ruin throughout Syria. Food production has been destroyed.
More than three years since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, WFP's Abeer Etefa reveals the scale of destruction in the old city of Homs, once dubbed the "capital of the revolution." Walking the empty streets and buildings..
WFP needs about US $35 million a week to feed Syrians. The U.S. Food for Peace program is by far the largest donor.
Food for Peace, originally started by Dwight Eisenhower, is run by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and provides donations to countries facing emergencies. Muhannad Hadi, WFP's Regional Emergency Coordinator for the Syria crisis, says:
This valuable contribution came at a critical time for the people of Syria as they try to cope with a looming harsh winter ahead. Our deepest appreciation to USAID for its continuous and unfaltering support in helping us reach the families who desperately rely on us.
Food is most crucial for children under five years of age. Malnutrition can cause lasting physical and mental damage, or death. WFP is distributing a special peanut paste called Plumpy'Doz to Syrian children. Plumpy'Doz is enriched with vitamins and mineral to stop the malnutrition. They need funds to keep this food supplied.
Despite ongoing violence, WFP is able to reach about 91 percent of intended recipients with food aid. This is around 3.9 million Syrians receiving the rations. However, the threat of ISIS has blocked off some areas from aid. WFP's Joelle Eid explains:
The deteriorating security across the country continues to affect deliveries in many areas. None of the planned food assistance for approximately 600,000 people could be delivered to Ar-Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor, where widespread insecurity continues to hamper passage of trucks since July and May, respectively.
As the war continues, funding will be a major issue from month to month. WFP had been forced to reduce rations prior because of low funding. WFP and other aid groups rely on voluntary donations. This Thanksgiving and throughout the holidays, there is a way you can help them.
Newspapers in the United States are calling for Americans to set aside an extra place at their holiday meal for a "silent guest," one of the world's hungry. The Boston Herald, the Des Moines Register, the Baltimore Sun, the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Missoulian and the Detroit Free Press were among newspapers that printed my op-ed calling for reviving the 1947 plan to feed the hungry. The San Jose Mercury News published its own editorial as well endorsing the "silent guest" plan.
It has worked before. Back in 1947, Europe was still reeling from World War II. They needed food first in order to rebuild. Americans made "silent guest" donations at Thanksgiving, and this led to thousands of CARE packages for the hungry overseas.
Little Lubka Madenova was the lucky recipient of a CARE food package from the American Silent Guest Committee. It was a heaven-sent gift for the child whose mother was desperately ill and whose father was killed during the war. (Photo courtesy of CARE)
This Thanksgiving there will be people starving in war-torn Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan and other nations. The UN World Food Programme has even been forced to cut rations for refugees because they are low on funds.
There are 805 million people worldwide who suffer from hunger. In this country around 49 million live with food insecurity.
This holiday you can set aside an extra place at your holiday meal and donate to a food bank or a charity that fights world hunger. As Americans did in 1947 to help win the peace after the war, you can help feed a 'silent guest."
The UN World Food Programme, Catholic Relief Services, UNICEF, Save the Children, and Feeding America are some of the charities where you can help feed a "silent guest." Or if you like to run or walk, you can also connect with WFP and Feeding America using the Charity Miles app. There are ways you can make a difference and help feed the hungry this holiday season.