Big Story 10

Food supplies reach families from Syria's Raqqa as road reopens: U.N.

ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Food supplies have reached thousands of people displaced by fighting in the Syrian city of Raqqa after road access was opened up for the first time in three years, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

A Syrian Democratic Forces fighter walks on the rubble of damaged buildings in Raqqa's al-Sanaa industrial neighborhood. REUTERS/Rodi Said

In June, Syria gave the United Nations permission to send humanitarian aid by road from Aleppo to the northeastern city of Qamishli to help thousands of people forced from their homes by the war with Islamic State.

The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) said it has now reached the town of Mansoura, west of Raqqa, and nearby rural areas which had been cut off from road deliveries since 2014.

Both locations are hosting people who recently fled Raqqa where U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish and Arab forces have recently seized territory on three sides of the city after a long offensive.

“Availability of food, water, medicine, electricity and other essentials has been dwindling, with the situation rapidly deteriorating,” said Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman from the U.N. refugee agency.

WFP’s Syria country director Jakob Kern said the agency had delivered canned food, juices, bread and other goods to families living in camps, exposed to scorching summer temperatures.

More than 190,000 people have been displaced from and within the Raqqa region since April, while up to 50,000 remain trapped in the city, according to U.N. officials.

Before the road to Qamishli was re-opened, the U.N. relied on costly airlifts from Damascus and road deliveries would save WFP some $19 million a year - enough to provide a year’s food to 100,000 people - the agency said.

“With these cost savings and improved access, we are now reaching more families and people returning to their homes who need our help,” Kern said in a statement.

But the agency needed more funds to support them, he added.

“We are desperately needing US$100 million to get us to the end of the year,” he said by phone, adding WFP provided food every day to 4 million people across Syria - the equivalent of half of Switzerland.