The World Food Programme – Its greatest challenges come when it confronts war and hunger. And that’s what’s happening today in Syria where you will find heroes of the World Food Programme saving the most vulnerable people in what looked to us like the edge of oblivion.
- This article contains snippets of the script from ‘War and Hunger’ video report which aired on CBC’s 60 Minutes, Nov. 30, 2014.
They had been farmers, shopkeepers, office workers. Now they shared one occupation: saving the children with matted hair and faces covered in ten days of misery. We noticed the little ones around Halima. Turns out she’s the mother of nine.
Scott Pelley: Why did you come?
“There’s bombing all around us,” she said, “I’m afraid for my children. But I don’t know what will become of us now.”
She had taken five of her children. Her husband took four by another route. And they hope to find one another.
Andrew Harper: This is happening every day. Every day we are getting hundreds of people, sometimes up to a thousand people, fleeing the violence, fleeing the deprivation in Syria and coming across into Jordan.
- Andrew Harper is in charge in Jordan for the United Nations high commissioner for refugees.
Scott Pelley: What kind of shape are they in when they come at the end of this journey?
Andrew Harper: It’s horrific. We’re seeing children coming across now without any shoes. Often they’ve only got one pair of clothes, some of them are just wearing their pajamas because, when their places were bombed, they had nothing to grab to leave.
The U.N. refugee relief agency and Jordanian troops met the families, gave them food and water, and loaded them up for the trip to a U.N. camp. There was room for everyone on the trucks but no mother would take that chance. They pressed their children in first. Parents had sacrificed all they had to see this moment. And a long dead emotion began to stir. It felt like hope.
Scott Pelley: You know, this war’s been going on for three years. Why are these people still coming now?
Andrew Harper: Because it’s getting worse. I think now more than ever there is absolutely no hope for the future at the moment in Syria.
The World Food Programme estimates that more than six million Syrians do not know where their next meal is coming from.
Matthew Hollingworth: These are areas where people have nothing. They really do have nothing.
- Matthew Hollingworth heads the World Food Programme mission inside Syria. In February, he led an armored column into the city of Homs, which had been sealed off by the dictatorship for 600 days.
Matthew Hollingworth: People were skin and bones. I could lift a grown man because he’d got to about 40 kilos.
Scott Pelley: 85 pounds or so?
Matthew Hollingworth: Exactly.
In the city of Homs, months of negotiations had opened a three-day ceasefire to distribute food. But it turned out the starving residents wanted something else first.
Matthew Hollingworth: The people of Old Homs asked us to evacuate women, children and the sick before any assistance came in. So we went through the last checkpoint. And there we could see in front of us 80 or 90 children, women and sick and injured people waiting to come out. And then the worst thing happened. The sniping started.
Scott Pelley: People were shooting at you.
Matthew Hollingworth: People started to shoot at us. So we took the decision then to put the vehicles, the armored vehicles in front of the area where they were shooting down in the alley to allow the people to come out. It was a hugely moving experience. And we successfully brought them out. This opened the way the following day for us to go into Homs and deliver the first assistance and we did that successfully, but halfway through, sadly, the operation, we came under mortar fire.
History records that in Homs, WFP evacuated 1,300 people and brought in enough food to feed 2,500 others for a month. But elsewhere in Syria more than one million remain beyond reach.
Scott Pelley: Tell me what you witnessed, what you saw with your own eyes.
Man from YouTube video: Even while the regime is bombing, nobody cared. It seems like if you die from the shelling, it will be a merciful way to die instead of dying from hunger because it will take months to die from hunger. People lost faith with the world, with their families, even with God. Nobody understood that we can die from hunger in the 21st century in Syria.
Scott Pelley: The regime shelled Moadamiyeh to rubble, used nerve gas on the population, but it was starvation…
Man from YouTube video: Yes.
Scott Pelley: …that broke the town.
Man from YouTube video: That’s absolutely true. It can destroy your soul, your mind, your beliefs, before it can destroy your body. Nobody in this world, no matter who he is, deserves to die from hunger. Nobody.
That is the principle on which the World Food Programme was founded, an idea in the Eisenhower administration, after 70 million people around the world starved to death in the first half of the 20th century.
Andrew Harper: We’re looking at probably one of the world’s largest refugee camps.
Scott Pelley: You have built this for 130,000 refugees. Do you think you’re going to have that many?
Andrew Harper: Well if you look it there’s about six and a half million people displaced in Syria. I think we may even need to build more than this.
When the U.N. camps opened, the World Food Programme served three meals a day. But it soon discovered that these families hungered for more than just a meal.
In recent weeks, Jordan has been forced to reduce the numbers it can accept. And the World Food Programme has come perilously close to cutting back rations for lack of funds. But millions more are on the move and the days of war remain uncounted.
This page only contains snippets of the video transcript on CBC, to read the entire article click on the link below.