Our Mandate Is Held Hostage by a Political Conflict

We must raise the alarm! In Syria, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles every day, that further limit our ability to feed innocent victims of war.

Our ability to work has become ever more complicated, with too many ignoring the reality that it does not matter whether a hungry child finds refuge in a "government-controlled" or an "opposition-controlled" area. Our staff and partners tirelessly struggle, oftentimes with little regard for personal safety, to serve hungry people - wherever they can and whenever they are allowed - across the entirety of Syria.

Each day, across the country, windows of opportunity to reach the millions of people, mostly women and children, who depend on our life-saving food assistance, grow narrower and dimmer. In the more than three years since the Syrian conflict began, these most vulnerable people have exhausted any ability to cope without humanitarian assistance.

Our mandate is held hostage by a highly political conflict with dramatic humanitarian implications. All sides to this war have made our task extremely difficult, creating more suffering for the people who need us the most.

As a UN agency, where we can work is dictated by government permissions, opposition limits and ongoing fighting. Yet we seize every opportunity to reach the most vulnerable trapped in conflict zones across Syria, caught in crossfire or seeking refuge in besieged towns.

The lack of corridors from neighbouring countries accessible to UN agencies limits our direct ability to assist those victims trapped along the border. It feels as if every time we take a step forward, we also take a few steps back.

We successfully assisted four million people inside Syria in March. Every month since, we have experienced more hurdles and increasing obstacles, reducing our ability to deliver across the country. In May, we reached only 3.2 million people with food.

Arbitrarily withholding humanitarian access is a violation of international humanitarian law and an act of non-compliance with this year's Security Council resolution 2139. Moreover, intentionally using starvation as a weapon of war is a gross violation of international humanitarian law. All parties must act in compliance with their obligations so that needy people can receive the assistance they so desperately require.

At WFP, we are in turn diplomatic, vocal and tenacious risk-takers. We talk with all parties who can help us provide support to those in need. We remind all sides to the conflict that they must respect the principles of neutrality and impartiality by removing all restrictions on access to those who need us most. We act in conformity with international law. We applaud and assist (when appropriate) other humanitarian actors providing food to those we can't reach. Yet we know none of these actions has been enough; because today across Syria children, women, the elderly and other vulnerable people are at risk of starvation.

We at WFP have a message for the warring parties in Syria: Let all humanitarian workers perform their duties. Settle your differences away from us and the people whom we strive to serve. A generation of your own people is being punished. Get food out of your cruel equation of victory. Open all roads for WFP staff, our partners and our trucks. If given the space and opportunity to deliver; WFP will deliver!