In war v. hunger, war wins

Lost in the online flagellation over the closing of Nye’s in Minneapolis, was a much more serious closing: The World Food Program has run out of money and has ended its role as an emergency relief provider to refugees in Syria.

There are 1.7 million of them and they’re going to go hungry through the winter.

The New York Times raises the possibility today that the organization is “crying wolf.”

“We did foreshadow it. We did warn about it,” Emilia Casella, a World Food Program spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview. She denied any suggestion that the suspension was a pressure tactic aimed at donors who have failed to deliver on their pledges. “We’ve exhausted all the options that we had,” she said. “We weren’t crying wolf.”

The United States gave the agency $125 million last week: $70 million to cover the cost of refugee vouchers in November, and $55 million to support food deliveries to about four million people in Syria until year’s end. But the agency said that it needed a further $64 million to support its voucher assistance operation in December and that food aid in Syria would come to a halt in February if it did not receive additional funds.

Once the money arrives, Ms. Casella said, the food voucher cards could be recharged immediately and the suspension would be lifted.

It is not the first time that the World Food Program has reduced assistance because of a budget crisis. Two weeks ago, for example, it curtailed food aid to 500,000 refugees in Kenya displaced by the instability in Somalia and Sudan.

The announcement of the food cut-off came a day after 60 Minutes aired an extensive report on the coming starvation.

  • davehoug

    Where are the rich Arab oil nations in all this????

    • I believe Saudi Arabia has sent a half billion this fall.

    • jon

      Probably the same place as all the wealthy middle class families are in America.

      Saudi Arabia has the largest government budget of all of the “Arab oil nations” (honestly I just looked for the first country on the list in the middle east).

      Their annual budget (as of 2013) is 221 billion USD…
      The US for comparison is 4,218 billion USD…
      Quick math, the Saudi budget is 5% of the US budget…
      The US annual deficit is twice that of the entire Saudi budget…

      Calling these nations rich would be the same as a CEO making a million a year calling some one making the median income (little less than $50K) rich. (while paying $50K in interest on their mortgage)

      (government revenues per capita is actually pretty close between the two countries)

  • Mark in Ohio

    When you have intact regimes that are generating large numbers of refugees, why doesn’t the international community start billing the refugee producing nation for the upkeep? Like the producers of any other nuisance, if it starts costing them, maybe they’ll modify their behavior.

    • BReynolds33

      Which bill collector are you sending in to get the money from the Assad regime?

      • Robert Moffitt

        Tape the bill to the warhead of a cruise missile. I’m sure we have his address somewhere.

      • Mark in Ohio

        I’m sure that the boys in the International Finance game would have ways of getting the money. I won’t pretend to be even remotely conversant in the actual mechanisms, but seizure of externally held assets (as opposed to the freezing of them, where the asset just stays in place), and garnishing any external financing in international trade deals come to mind. Treat them like a deadbeat dad! In reality, it would be just one more method of harassing them and saying “Quit being a nuisance and creating problems for your neighbors”.

        • jon

          Billing the Assad regime right now because he is the one causing such problems would suggest that the rebels who were trying to over throw the Assad regime are blameless.

          The message being sent would be such that as endorsing one side over the other.

          The entire government revenue of Syria as of 2011 was only 11.7 Billion (and they were running a deficit), odds are it’s substantially less now that many of the cities have been bombed, shot up, and many of the people who were paying into those taxes are now living as refugees…
          I don’t think they have the money to feed these people, particularly while fighting a civil war. We can send the victors of the war a bill after it’s done, but the lessons we learned from the Weimar Republic post WWI suggest that burdening a fledgling government with debt isn’t an effective way to ensure stability in the region.

  • Robert Moffitt

    Famine these days is rarely caused by a lack of food. It’s caused by the evil that men do.