Shah, the USAID administrator, said he “had not heard the number 10 million as having any immediate credibility.” But he said the United States was “preparing for a range of scenarios” including “much more dire situations” than the present.
The World Food Program, the main U.N. agency responsible for delivering international food to Syria, said that 4 million people will need assistance by early next year. World Food Program spokeswoman Abeer Etefa told McClatchy that most commodities are available in the Syrian market, though at higher prices, but that basic grains, cooking gas and fuel were in short supply.
“Wheat is still available, but is dwindling by the day, especially in areas where clashes are taking place,” Etefa said in an email. State-subsidized bread is now “hardly available” in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, and people are “widely relying on private bakeries for their daily bread consumption.”
The Assad regime is reported to have bombed more than a dozen private bakeries.
In response to shortages, higher prices and limited finances, Syrian households are cutting back consumption, Etefa said, reducing the number of meals, consuming cheaper or lower quality food, reducing the size of meals, taking children out of school, sending children – including young daughters – to work, selling livestock and other assets, and cutting back medical and education expenses.
The Turkish government also is relying on the U.N. estimates of 4 million Syrians in distress. But a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said that because Syria will not have a real harvest this year, the numbers could climb.
Atalay of Turkish relief foundation said that regardless of the U.N. estimates, his organization would stick to its number. “If the official figures say 4 million, you should take it as 8 (million),” he said in an email. “At the least, we should consider twice this figure as being closer to reality, since outside observers can only reach a limited number of people.”
Shah told reporters that the Obama administration was committed to doing “everything we could to address the humanitarian needs inside of Syria.” But he brought no new pledge of funds beyond the $200 million already announced. He said the United States was providing “winterization kits” for 400,000 Syrians, medical support programs that reached 300,000 and support for the World Food Program that enabled it to reach 1.2 million Syrians.
Shah was unable to say whether his organization was in touch with the IHH, the Turkish group that aids Syrians across the border. “We are operating and in touch with a broad range of partners,” he said. “There are a lot of NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) out there that are trying to do effective work in respecting basic humanitarian principles.”