tv Inside Story Al Jazeera December 3, 2014 5:00pm-5:31pm EST
we'll come back to new york once the mayor begins to speak. let's send it to ray suarez for inside story in washington, d.c. >> the war in syria has chased millions of people from their homes. now one of the refugees' most important lifelines, the world food program says it's out of money. it's inside story. >> hello, i'm ray suarez. the millions fleeing the
destroyed cities and towns of syria have put a heavy burden on the country's neighbors. lebanon, jordan and turkey are now the reluctant homes to instant cities of temporary shelters. these are in many cases countries struggling to take care of their own people when an emergency drags on, becomes something more than a burst of dislocation. the difficulties will only grow. the united nations' world food program said that it can't forward to feed world refugees any more, and needs infusions of new cash to defend off hunger in the camps as winter begins to tighten it's grip. nearly 2 million syrian refugees who manage to flee the violence of civil war and find safety in neighboring countries are now in serious danger of going hungry this winter.
>> it has declared the suspension of the assistance. the assistance for refugees, in lebanon, turkey and egypt, they have faced funding constraints in recent months and have been appealing from donors for funding. >> typically when families flee with their families from war they are given a card that works like a debit card in grocery stores. but with many in need, wfo has struggled to keep up. >> this is not fair. syrians do not deserve this. we fled war and we became refugees. >> last week the united states donated $125 million to the wfp.
now the organization says it needs an additional $64 million to reinstate the vouchers for syrians. >> we're expecting that people will maybe have to send their children out to work, they'll have to skip meals, they'll have to do without food. and what we're worried about is some may even feel they're forced to go back to syria even though it may not be safe. >> more than 200,000 people have been killed in syria's three and a half year civil war. in addition to the three million refugees now living abroad there are more than 6 million people still inside syria relying on international help. the wfp says at this rate food aid to those internally displaced in syria will also end in february. >> the syrian refugees and the strain they put on aid agencies
this time. it is out of money for food vouchers that sustain half of more than 3 million refugees. to take us inside the international donors ask the workings of the agencies that keep people eating and what happens when emergencies have no end in site are from rome, senior spokesperson for the united nations world food program. and director of research, and professor of political science at the city of new york graduate center. the author most recently of humanitarian business. steve, let me start with you. is the cupboard literally bare? >> they are, indeed, bare, ray. the report that you open the program with is pretty dreary but right on target in the sense that we have, as you say, just run out of money.
we've been sounding the alarm for several months now. but have not received enough from the donors who support these really important programs to prevent us from making these cuts. the cuts are coming at a critical time. you mentioned the onset of winter right now in very difficult living conditions, and they are cuts that nobody wants to make. it's very difficult to tell hungry people who already are not receiving enough food that they'll begin receiving even less. but the demands are just much greater than we can with the resources that we have so far. >> the word started to trickle out over the last couple of days that you were in this fix. in response to that have any governments in the intervening 24-48 hours come forward and said, okay, we're going to kick in? >> we've had an outpouring of support from various--especially individual, very sympathetic donors who contributed money
through an online campaign we started. for instance, becom the coming days will tell whether we receive enough significant amounts from government supporters to help stave off some of these. right now that's not the case. we have put some cuts in place in these countries, and others are scheduled to go in effect in the coming days. >> one of the commonplaces of reporting on what the wfp does around the world is video of pallets, bulk pallets of food being taken off cargo strips, broken up and distributed. why are we talking about food cards that have cash value instead of bulk deliveries of food? >> that's a good question. and we're talking about it because when it comes to feeding hungry people time is of the essence, and in a lot of truly dire settings where people
have--are experiencing profound hunger whatever we can do to get food to them as quickly and efficiently as possible is the prefer mechanism of delivery. in a lot of settings what we have found is that using paper or electronic vouchers is a really effective way to give people quick access to food where they don't have to wait for ships to dock at port or planes to arrive at airports, both of which might be under attack by different parties in conflict situations. using vouchers also allows people who in many cases have lost a lot of pride and dignity in their life because of the circumstances they're in to regain control over their daily living conditions, and exert some choice over what foods they eat and how they buy them. in a lot of ways vouchers have been a really effective delivery mechanism for us. >> what happens when people get the word that after they've developed a pace of life, a set
of expectations around getting this money, it's not coming any more, and yet they still have to eat. >> yes, it's a real crisis for refugee who is are facing this cut off. many of the refugees in lebanon and jordan, this is their only means of support. the only assistance they're receiving is $30 per month for food voucher, and they're feeding families on this. and really shockingly they only got word a couple of days ago that they're not getting it--they were supposed to get vouchers today and tomorrow. it's quite a shock to these families. we're hearing about families calling up crying with really no recourse. it's quite a crisis for 900,000 recipients in lebanon and many more in jordan. >> when faced with kind of situation i don't expect people to just passively sit down and starve. what happens? what do they do to adjust?
>> these refugees have been scrapping and scraping for many years now. the majority of refugees from syria don't live in camps. they're trying to scrape by in rented housing, sometimes putting up tents, living quite disorganized in in some cases they work a little bit or they brought saving from syria. a lot of that is depleted now. they're not completely without resources but those resources have drawn very thin over the years. everyone hoped that this would be a short conflict, and now it looks like it's a long one. >> as you heard this news as someone who is familiar with the inner workings with these international organizations was there a little bit of a cynical reaction, a kind of, oh well, here we go again, brinksmanship
that we're going to be hungry right away. >> it's the clearly the needs on the ground. we've seen as we just mentioned a slow motion rwanda over the last three and a half years. the important thing to keep in mind that the refugees are actually the lucky ones. the $6 billion tthe 6 billion and 7 billion left in syria are under considerable danger. being a refugee is actually a leg up on the others. the importance, of course, in your distinction is that it's easier domestically to sell to iowa farmers, the idea of getting rid of surpluses versus the u.s. government, particularly with this congress ponying up additional resources
to put on debit cards in the middle east. >> do the debit cards work better, more efficiently with the native population? >> these countries that we're talking about have had a rough 21st century. they've taken in hundreds of iraqi refugees, now syrian refugees. there has to be disruption that comes with that kind of pace and burden. is someone with a card more compatible with the local economy than someone who is getting free food from someone else that they may divert it to the local economy? >> absolutely. almost everyone in the humanitarian development business would refer cards for a couple of reasons. as has already been said, you put the matter of choice in the family's hands or the individuals' hands, but you far fewer consequences for the local
economy. we've seen incidents in the pass where a flood of food destroys the local economy or drives up prices. this is not only a faster way to get the needed services and purchases to people, but it's also more humane. it's just more difficult, i believe, to sell. >> we'll be back with more inside story after a short break. when we return a look at the particular needs of the syrian refugees. what are the options if they run out of vouchers? what shot does a couple in jordan, lebanon have at feeding their kids? stay with us.
>> we're back with inside story on al jazeera america. i'm ray suarez. imagine a syrian family that drove out of the country with a couple of kids and everything they could pack into a compact car. they entered countries that bore the strain of iraqi refugees. they stole everything that could raise quick cash. the adults for the most part are barred from working legally or simply not welcome in a legitimate economy. they may have concluded a long time ago that going back to syria is simply not an option. after three and a half years of war how are they going to eat?
not only taking care of their needs, but making sure that host countries are able to bear the strain of having them. are you trying to fulfill two assignments at once? >> the neighbor countries to syria have been incredibly generous by hosting 7 million from syria. but it poses huge strains on these countries. they're not rich countries in the first place, so their resources are already strained. infrastructure, schools, even issues like sanitation and electricity are being strained by the refugees. it helps that the world food program has given cards so they can integrate better in local businesses and provide benefits to local businesses by purchasing food, so cutting off that champion would hurt. but we need to think about the host communities as well as the refugees. cutting off this lifeline support will hurt the local
communities and refugees themselves. we need to think about middle term solutions. this conflict is not going away soon, and reask shoulrefugees should not return home because it's not safe. >> we don't want those big settlements to officify in place and become reality for large numbers of people who miss work, children who lose lots of school. there are losses as this thing drags on, aren't there? >> absolutely. however, there are very few countries other than the contiguous ones who are willing to welcome refugees. it is really important to understand what's happened ove over the last quarter of a century, which is to close many entrances. as we think about the debates following in washington about
11 million illegal immigrants, who have been accumulating over the last quarter of a century, you think about lebanon, which has gotten a million new people, about 25% of its population over the last three years. imagine what would happen here were we to entertain in the last three years an infusion of 70 million or so refugees. very, very tall order. >> stephen, you've laid out the monetary problems facing your agency. have you ever been in this position before? has wfp in the midst of a large sustenance campaign had to cut back when it's simply run out of money? >> ray, i think the answer is yes and no. no in the sense that we have not cut rations in any way for the syrian refugees we serve.
not since the beginning of the conflict. that's the first for this emergency, and for something on this scale. but i would have to say yes we are cutting rations in other parts of the world, because the donors themselves are stretched so thin by the demands of our five level these at the same time. reduced rations in kenya and earlier this year re-reduesed rations in other countries. it's become the new norm that we just don't have the resources to provide all the services that are expected of us right now. >> has the donor pool changed as the world economy has changed? if we went back 20-30 years i think we would think of a handful of countries that often pony up in situations like this, but now there are new wealthy countries in the world. new middle class countries. are the mexicos, the brazils,
chinas, turkeys now also being asked to aid in the way that the another ways, sweden's, canadas and u.ss have always had? >> are they being asked? yes. we're making an enormous global appeal this week to all parties to help. people can donate at www www.wfp.org /donate. whether those countries donate in this emergency, i'm not sure. the united states, the united kingdom, kuwait, for instance, saudi arabia have all been very generous with syria operations and other countries as well. this is not a case of not being sufficient will or interest among the donor community. the donors understand how severe the situation is, but i think some of them must feel every time they turn around wfp is there with hat in hand because
with south sudan, and central republic, the demand is enormous. >> have we asked the new global middle class to punch their weight in the international donor community? >> we've asked, but we have not seen much come in. i think the big exception here is turkey, which doubled it's o.d.a. from 2012 to 2013, and in 2012 it had doubled from the year before. turkey is a major player in this crisis. i think it's also important just to put this whole business in context to think that the last year for which we have good data from 2013 there was an increase of 25% from the year 2012. so the kinds of strains that are around the world, and individuals around the world need to be put in this context.
i think its important to think about syria amongst the five serious crises we've heard about. syria has received a larger portion of its assessed needs than any of the other ones. syria actually has come out on top with around over 70%. the average for all emergencies around 60, and the other major emergencies is actually quite close to the average. >> going crypttive before we go to a break, i mentioned cynicism earlier in the program often these kinds of requests are met with a kind of, well, you know, jaded observation that people can't be sure that the money is being spent well, spent efficiently, spent properly. is this a departure for that? is global food assistance in emergency aid a pretty reliable give if you're opening up your
wallet somewhere in the developed world? >> we got pretty good at it, not to say that it can't be done better. it's been a leader in innovating new ideas using vouchers rather than indeed distribution which is more efficient, and more humane way to provide assistance. i think we could make a strong case that aid is getting much better and much more efficient than it has in the past. and also to put it in a broader context. the u.s. in many other countries are intervening militarily in that region. it comes as a chest board for the great powers. and the money involved in providing support is tiny compared to military intervention and other expenditures we're making. to really go to neglect the people involved at the same time we're thinking about these terrorists and so forth, it's a real mistake. the people, these are the people that we want to help. this is why we're looking at this as a strategic challenge.
>> we'll have more inside story after a quick break. we'll look back at the long running refugee crises around the world. many have been pushed from their home and aren't going poem soon. decades in the era of mass displacement, and an international system to respond on anything but a case by case basis. that's our focus. stay with us.
for the long hall. as the world food program runs out of money, keeping thousands of thousands of syrian fed we're talking to experts about what to do in a very complicated i. is there an evolving tool kit? you've got people on the wrong side of borders or out of their homes across the world today. >> probably 2500 of them, including 20 major once that come with a rescue. there is nothing coherent about that approach. that is one of the major humanitarian problems. we also don't have a way to deal with the 50 or 55 million people who are displaced internally or as refugees. our tool kit is sorely lacking.
>> you can imagine a situation where you get so goods at peopling people alive where they're not supposed to be where you lose the thread that getting them home is really, really important. >> no, getting them home is essential. that's why we work with many other agencies to try to accomplish that. but there has to be a sense of strong political will here, ray, to accomplish that. it's not just about donations. it's about the parties that are warring to bring those conflicts to an end so people can go home. >> so you have to think goin not only short term about three meals today, but the next year and the year after that. >> absolutely. you have to think about several things at once. your point about the tool kit, we know how to deal with a lot of problems, the immediate crisis but we don't know what to
do when the crisis looks like it's going to go on for some time. we need to begin thinking about how to create livelihoods for these people. if they're going to be here for another year or more than a few years we need to permit them and find ways to earn an income so they can not be dependent on the world food program. and the host governments will want that as well because they don't want these populations sitting by without a means of sport support and being very unhappy. >> do they say that to you, walking across the desert or riding across in a car that putters across the border? >> mostly they wanting to home. they want the conflict ended and they wanting to home. when they realize they can't they need to realize they need interim solution. some people are vulnerable. they're facing political problems, we donors need to think about finding other homes for them. we need to think about
resettling. some of these refugees, a fraction of them in other countries because they can't continue where they are. >> great to talk with you all. that brings us to the end of this edition of inside story. thanks for being with us. the program is over and the conversation continues. tell us what you think about the issues raised thon or any day's show on our facebook page. send us your thoughts on twitt twitter. our handle is @aj inside story am. from washington, i'm ray suarez. . >> this is al jazeera america live from new york city. i'm tony harris. we're following breaking news for you at this hour. new york city mayor bill
de blasio is moments away from holding a news conference. there he is, granted jury in staten island decided it will not indict a white police officer who put began center a choke hold. as you know garner later died. and the mayor is greeting people right now. a number of people we believe will get an opportunity to speak after the mayor. let's listen in now from the comments of new york city bill de blasio. >> we've just come from a meeting of clergy, and elected officials and other leaders here in staten island. and a lot of pain and frustration in the room this evening at the same time a lot of purposefulness everyone here having spent so much of their lives trying to address se