tv Inside Story Al Jazeera December 4, 2014 9:30am-10:01am EST
the millions fleeing the destroyed cities and towns of syria have put a heavy bette bun the country's neighbors. jordan turkey and lebanon are struggling to take care of their own people when an emergency continues on, the difficulties of staining these people will only grow. the eurnts worl eurnt united nations world food program, as winter begins to tighten its grip. nearly 2 million syria refugees who managed to flee the violence of civil war and find safety in neighboring countries are now in serious danger of going hungry this winter.
funding for the u.n. world food program's vouchers, have dried up just as the bitter cold has set in. >> special assistance for syrian refugees because of funding complaints. wsp has been facing crisis for months and has been appealing to donors for funding. >> works like a debit card in local grocery stores. but with the surge of global crises and people in need wfp has struggled to keep up with the cost and now can't afford to top up the cards. >> this is unfair, the syrians do not deserve this. we fled our country and the ongoing war and hunger. i have patience for one day without food but my son doesn't.
>> donated $125 million to the wfp, now the organization says it needs an additional $64 million to reinstate the vouchers for syrians. >> expect they may turn out people for work, skip meals and do without food and what we're worried about is some may feel they're forced to go back to syria even though their towns and villages are not safe. >> more than 200,000 have been killed in syria's three-year war and in addition to the million refugees now abroad, there are still 6 million relying on international help. the wsp says that food aid to those internally displa internally displaced inside syria will also come to an end.
the world food program is sounding the alarm. it's 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 sight are from rome, steve taravella, guane kripke, and from new york, thomas weiss, professor of political science, the author most recently of humanitarian business. steve let me start with you. is the cupboard literally bare? are you out of money to top up these cards? >> they are indeed bare, ray. i mean the report that you open the program with was pretty dreary. but right on target. in the sense that we have as you say just run out of money.
and 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. and the cuts are coming at a critical time. you mentioned the onset of winter right now in very difficult living conditions. and they're cuts that nobody wants to make. it's very difficult to tell hungry people who already aren't receiving enough food that they'll begin receiving even less. but the demands on us are just much greater than we can do with the resources we have so par. >> the word started to -- so far. >> the word trickled out that you were in such fix. have the donors over the last 24 to 48 hours come forward and said, okay we're going to kick in? >> we've had an outpeering of support especially from individual very sympathetic
donors who have contributed money through an online campaign we started for instance. the coming days will tell whether or not we receive enough significant amounts from government supporters to help us stave off some of these. right now that's not case. we've already put some cuts in place in these countries and others are scheduled to go into effect in the coming days. >> you know one of the common places of reporting on what the wfp does around the world is video of pallettes bulk pallettes of food, broken up and distributed. why are we talking about food cards that have cash value instead of those bulk deliveries of fee 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 are experiencing profound runger, whatever we can do to get food to them as quickly and efficiently as possible is the preferred mechanism of delivery. in a lot of settings, what we have found is that using paper or electronic vouchers is really an effective way to give people quick access to food where they don't have to wait for ships to dock or planes to land both areas may be under attack in conflict situations. using vouchers also allows people who in many cases have lost a lot of pride and dig it this in their lives because of the circumstances they're in to exert some choice over what foods they eat and how they buy them. so in a lot of ways, vouchers have been a really effective delivery mechanism for us. >> goan kripke, what happens
when people get the word april they have developed a pace of life, and it's not coming anymore yet they still have to eat? >> yeah, it's a real crisis for the refugees that are facing this cutoff. many of the refugees in lebanon and jordan, this is their only means of support. the only assistance they're receiving is this $30 per month for a food voucher and they are feeding families on this. and really shockingly they only got word a couple of days ago they are not getting it. they were supposed to get the vouchers today or tomorrow. it's quite a shock to many of these families, we are 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 that kind of situation i don't expect that people just passively sit down and starve.
what happens, what do they do to adjust? >> these refugees have been scrapping and scraping for, of them for years now. the majority of the refugees in syria don't live in camps. they're trying to scrape by, sometimes putting up tents in communities, in little bits and pieces, quite disorganized. in many cases they try to work a little bit, and brought savings from syria. a lot of that is depleted now. they are not completely without resources but they have drawn thin over the years. everyone felt it would be a short conflict but now it seems it will be a long one. >> thomas weiss, was there a little bit of a cynical reaction, a kind of, oh well, here we go again, brinksmanship, squeezing donors, we've got to do this, so here's maximum
leverage, we're going to have people who will be hungry right away? >> well, i think it's important to distinguish any cynical reactions from the real needs on the ground. there are clearly real needs on the ground and we've seen as we just mentioned a kind of slow motion rwanda over the last three and a half years. and the important thing to keep in mind is that the refugees are actually lucky ones. the 6 million to 7 million inside syria are actually in worst shape -- worse shape, have little access and few stores to go to and under considerable danger. so being a refugee is actually a leg up on the others. the importance of course i think in your distinction between pallettes and cards is it's a little easier domestically to sell to iowa farmers the idea of getting rid of surplus the u.s. government particularly in this congress in ponying up
additional resources to put on debit cards in the middle east. >> do the debit cards work better, more efficiently, with the native populations? you know these countries that we're talking about have had a rough 21st century. they took hundreds of thousands of iraqi refugees, now millions of syrian refugees, there must be some domestic disruption that comes from that kind of pace and that kind of burden. is someone with a card more compatible with the local economy than someone getting free food from somewhere else that they may divert into the local economy? >> absolutely. i think almost everyone united in the humanitarian or development business would prefer cards for couple of reasons. as has already been said, you put the matter of choice in the family's hands or the individual's hands. but you also have far fewer
consequences for the local economy. we've seen lots of instances in the past where a flood of food actually destroys the local community or drives up prices or drives up hoarding. in many ways this is not only a faster way to get the needed services and purchases to people but it is also more humane and it is more difficult i brief 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 the world food program runs out of vouchers, what shot has a syrian family have for feeding their children? stay with us.
a syrian family that drove out of the country with everything they could park in a compact car. they've already sold everything that could raise some quick cash. the adults for the most part are either barred from working legally or simply not welcome in the 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? goane kripke some is part of the task, that host countries are actually able to bear the strain of hosting them? are you bearing two burdens at once? >> these refugees present huge strains on those countries. they're not rich countries in the first place. so their resources are already very strained. the infrastructure,
schools, even issues like sanitation and electricity are being strained by the refugees. it helps that the world food program is given cards so they can integrate better into local businesses, purchasing food through local businesses so cutting off that channel hurts. but we really need to be thinking about the host communities as well as the refugees themselves. cutting off this life line of support will hurt both the local communities as well as the refugees themselves. and we need to be starting to think about middle term solutions because this conflict is not going away soon and the refugees shouldn't return home because it isn't safe. >> thomas weiss, what do you have to look out for? we don't want those great big settlements to sort of o ossifyn place. going groups of adults who lose
the knack of work, children who lose large time in school. this gets worse as it drags on doesn't it? >> absolutely. willing to accept these refugees we are certainly not going to open our gates here nor is western europe. it is necessary to understand what the asigh legal geem to regime, the debate you're following in washington about 11 million illegal immigrants who have been accumulating over the last quarter-century, lebanon has gotten about a million new people, about 25% of its population over the last three years. imagine what would happen here were we to entertain over the last three years an infusion of 70 million or so refugees.
very, very tall order. >> steven taravelli you have laid out the monetary challenges facing your agency. in the midst of a large sufnt sustenance campaign. >> the answer is no we have not had to cut rations for the syrian refugees since the beginning of the conflict at least four years ago. that is the first for the emergency on this scale but i would have to say yes we are cutting rations in other parts of the world and other activities because the donors who support our work are just themselves stretched so thin by the demands of our work on five what we call level three global emergencies at the same time. we have recently reduced rations
in kenya, earlier this year we reduced rations in other countries. it's become the new norm in a sense 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'd 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, the chinas, the turkeys now being asked to provide aid the way the norway the swedens, the canadas always have? >> all parties to help, people can donate at wfp.org/donate. on the list of countries who
have donated for this emergency, i'm not sure. the united states, the united kingdom, kuwait, for instance, saudi arabia, have all been very generous with syria regional rations and many other countries as well. i don't think this is a case of there not being sufficient will or interest among the donor community. the donors understand how severe the situation is but i think all of them must feel every time they turn around wsp is there speak. with the ebola crisis, the demands on the global landscape are just enormous. >> thomas weiss, have we asked the donor community to punch their weight in the community? >> we have asked. but not much has come in.
turkey has doubled its oga from 2012 to 2013 and from 2012 it doubled from the year before. so turkey is a major player. to think that the last year for which we actually have good data 2013, there was an increase of 25% from the year 2012, so the kinds of strains that are on parliaments around the world and individuals around the world need to be put in this context. and i think it's also important to think about syria among the five serious crieses w crises that we have just heard about, the average of all emergencies is around 60 and the other emergency emergencies
is actually quite close -- and the other major emergencies that is actually quite close to the average. these kinds of requests are met with a kind of, well, you know, jaded observation that the people can't be sure that the money is being spent well, spent efficiently, spent properly. is this a departure from that? is global food assistance and emergency aid a pretty reliable give if you are opening up your wallet somewhere in the developed world? >> we've gotten better at it, not that it can't be made better, like you using vouchers, which is more efficient and more humane way of providing assistance. i think we can get a strong case that aid is getting better, more efficient and more targeted than it ever has been in the past. but aid in a broader context we
think of syria in a very strategic way, the u.s. and others are intervening militarily, it's become a chess game for the great powers. and the millions provided for aid is tiny compared to the other expenditures we're making. so to really go to neglect the people involved at the same time as we're thinking about these terrorists and so forth is a real mistake. because 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. when we come back, a look at the long running refugee crises around the world. millions are being pushed from their home and not going home soon. there is still not a reliable set of responses other than a case-by-case basis. that's our focus. stay with us.
at all. it's a refugee camp for somalis. palestinians for complex reasons, still live in vast syrian camps, streets and avenues of temporary shelter, and improvised economies. keeping thousands of syrians fed, we're talking to experts about what to do in a very complicated world situation. professor weiss, is there an evolving tool kit for responding to these crie crises? you've got people out out of their homes across the world today. >> the only tool kit is a u.n. system and a large number of ngos, probably 2500 of them including 20 major ones that come to the rescue.
there is nothing coherent or coordinated about that approach. that is one of the major humanitarian problems. but we also don't have a way to do anything with the 50 or 55 million people who are displaced internally or as refugees. so our tool kit is sorely lack. >> stephen taravelle, you can imagine a situation where you can get so good at keeping people alive where they're not supposed to be that we sort of lose the thread that getting them home is really, really important . >> no, getting them home is essential and 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, goane kripe, not just short term about three meals today or two meals today but this year and the year after that, don't you? >> several things at once. your point about the tool kilt, we know how to do with many problems about immediate crisis but we don't know what to do when the crisis will go on for a long time. if they're going to be there for a year or more than a few years, we need to permit them and find ways they can earn an income so they cannot be dependent on the world food program or oxfam. they don't want these populations sitting by without a means of support and being very unhappy. >> but do they say that to you when these people arrive either walking across the desert or riding across it in a car that
just putters that last few yards across the border? >> mostly they want the conflict ended and want to go home but when they can't, they need an interim solution. for people who are vulnerable they are facing real political problems or special vulnerabilities, we donors need to find new homes for them and think about resettling and resettling these refugees. they can't be continued to be where they are. >> that brings us to the end of this edition of "inside story." tell us what you think about the issues raised on this or any show. on our facebook page. our handle is
@ajam insidestory. i'm ray suarez. this is the news hour. coming up in the next 60 minutes, vladimir putin defends russia's foreign policy in an address to the nation and plays down the country's economic woes. protests across the u.s. over the latest decision not to charge a police officer in the death of an unarmed black man. >> and countdown