GENEVA: The World Food Programme (WFP) has received permission from the Syrian government to use dozens of additional local aid agencies to try to reach the 2.5 million people deemed hungry in the war-torn country, its chief said on Wednesday.
The United Nations food agency has only been able to reach a maximum of 1.5 million people within Syria each month due to fighting and a lack of local partners capable of delivering aid.
"What we did not have in the past was permission from the government to formally develop relationships with additional NGO (non-governmental organisation) partners. We have now been given that authority from the government," WFP executive-director Ertharin Cousin told a news briefing in Geneva.
The government of President Bashar al-Assad, locked in a 21-month conflict with rebels fighting to topple him, submitted a list of 110 local aid agencies to the WFP a week ago, she said.
"We have assessed the operational capacity of that 110 and we have identified 44 NGOs on that list that will give us the ability to scale up to another 1 million persons," Cousin said, noting that WFP's criteria had included neutrality of agencies.
She declined to give a timeframe for when it might be able to reach 2.5 million people and said: "We are always limited by the violence regardless of how many new partners we bring on."