* WFP reached target of 1.5 mln in Sept, up from 850,000 in
* Plans to feed that number each month till mid-2013
* Fuel for cooking and heating seen as issue this winter
* Syrian crisis having impact on food prices in region
(Recasts, adds details)
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, Oct 23 The World Food Programme (WFP)
said on Tuesday it plans to continue providing food for 1.5
million people in Syria until at least June next year, a sign it
expects hunger to persist in a protracted civil war.
The United Nations agency set the target of 1.5 million
months ago and finally reached it in September, after managing
to deliver food supplies to just 850,000 people in August.
"It is a record amount," Daly Belgasmi, WFP regional
director for the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and
Eastern Europe, told Reuters in Geneva.
Belgasmi said the WFP planned to continue distributing to
1.5 million hungry civilians until mid-2013 under a fresh U.N.
humanitarian appeal due to be launched in January for Syria
which had a pre-war population was 22 million.
"What we see today is that it is a crisis that threatens to
last," he told a news briefing.
The WFP had no information on the Syrian government's food
security stocks, but fuel for cooking and heating "may be an
issue" this winter for many residents, especially the estimated
1.2 million who have been displaced, he said.
"We have full support that we can have access to Syrians
without any distinction," said Belgasmi, who held talks with
senior Syrian officials in Damascus last week.
"In the case of Syria, the market looks stable inside. You
can go and see oil, vegetables, onions, tomatoes - for how long
we don't have a real indication," he said.
FOOD FOR THE NEEDY
But some areas remain cut off to aid workers due to fighting
between Syrian government forces and armed militants locked in a
19-month conflict that has escalated into a civil war.
WFP food is distributed mainly by the Syrian Arab Red
Crescent and other local partners. Belgasmi estimated that
distribution of a maximum of one-third of it was monitored,
adding "but we know that the food is going to the right
"We do not provide any food to any (warring) party, we
provide food to those who are in need," he said.
In all, up to three million people in Syria are likely to
need food, crop and livestock aid, according to a joint
assessment by the WFP, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture
Organisation (FAO) and the government.
The Syrian crisis is also driving up basic food prices
across the region, Belgasmi said.
"Syrian farmers, they used to be really very strong
suppliers of food in the region. They used to export over 2
million tonnes of vegetables and something like over 200,0000
animal products and millions of tonnes of cereals to the region.
All that has stopped," he told a news briefing.
"So you have an increase in the cost of food commodities in
the neighbouring countries," he said.
The WFP is also distributing food vouchers or supplies to
120,000 Syrian refugees who have fled to four neighbouring
countries - Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
In all, more than 358,000 Syrian refugees have registered in
the four countries, according to the UNHCR which has forecast
that there could be 700,000 by year-end.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Jon Hemming)