Dutch supports for food drops in Syria

The government has pledged direct support to the food drops by the World Food Programme (WFP) over the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor. ‘Now that there’s a window of opportunity to help the city’s suffering population, we need to take action,’ said Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen.

The WFP, which is a UN organisation, has drawn up a longer-term plan for dropping large quantities of food from a high altitude. It is hoped that the first flight could take place sometime next week. As Ms Ploumen has pointed out, around 200,000 people living in the area are desperate for aid. ‘Unfortunately, this is not a situation that can be reversed overnight. But every human life matters. And so we need to do whatever we can.’

At present aid can only reach Deir Ezzor by air. To ensure that the flights run smoothly, the WFP has called on the members of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) to monitor air traffic closely, so as to prevent accidents with other air operations being conducted in the region. Once the food packets land, they are distributed by the Syrian Red Crescent and Al Ahnath, the WFP’s main local partners.

The WFP has budgeted this operation at €18 million. The Netherlands will contribute €2 million of this amount, from the €125 million it recently pledged at the Syria conference in London. Part of this money is specifically intended for aid to people in areas under siege. The WFP operation comes in response to agreements made by the ISSG in Munich to open up humanitarian access to certain areas as soon as possible. The Netherlands recently joined the group.