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Another Voice: Lack of food aid hurts chances for peace in Syria

By William Lambers

Imagine if you were forced from your home because of an armed conflict. What if you lost everything you own as a result?

You flee to another land for safety. There you find refuge and the helping hand of charity. You get the basics of food, water and shelter.

But then imagine one day you are told the food rations will be cut in half. How will you feed your family? Think of your despair.

That is what is happening to Syrian refugees throughout the Middle East. Low funding from the international community has forced the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) to reduce food aid. Syrians feel abandoned by the world.

There is no peace for them, and now there is less and less food each day. And less hope.

Speaking before the U.N. Security Council, WFP Director Ertharin Cousin said, “I must warn this council that when we reduce food access operations, we reduce stability.”

We should heed this warning. The WFP needs support to feed 4 million Syrians in the war-torn country and over 2 million others who have fled to neighboring countries.

The world has already failed the Syrian people by not achieving a resolution to the four-year civil war. Now the world is failing them again on food aid.

With less food, Syria’s war victims are forced into desperate situations. Young daughters are being married off and children are being recruited into armed groups.

If we fully funded humanitarian aid, we could keep Syrian children in school with food and education.

In some parts of Syria, humanitarian aid cannot even get through because it’s blocked by the fighting. Terrorist groups like ISIS prevent aid from reaching the people. ISIS came about in Syria because of the chaos of the civil war.

We need a political solution to Syria’s war. Meetings will be starting in Geneva during May to hopefully jump-start a peace process that has gone nowhere.

There has to be a new government in Syria. That is the only path to saving the country and ending the bloodshed. The entire international community has to get behind this process in words and actions.

The U.S. military says ISIS is weakening in Syria and Iraq after airstrikes. But if the civil war continues, it will give ISIS a chance to keep going amid the chaos.

Any hopes for peace rest on the basics of food, especially for children. The greatest international peace effort in history, the Marshall Plan to rebuild war-torn Europe, was based on a foundation of food and hope. It worked.

We cannot expect anything less today. Food will reinforce the peace process for Syria. Without it, this process will be doomed.

William Lambers, of Cincinnati, partnered with the U.N. World Food Programme on the book “Ending World Hunger.”