The United Nations' World Food Program downplayed recent reports that not enough of its Syrian food aid is going to people in opposition areas.
“I think it's important to note that all of the money being raised is going to the aid operation. It's not going to the Syrian government," World Food Program (WFP) spokesperson and panel moderator Bettina Luescher said. Luescher was speaking in a live Google "hangout" online panel, broadcast by the WFP. The panel was billed as a chance for reporters to interview WFP's spokesperson Abeer Etefa, who was speaking from the WFP's Damascus headquarters.
The panel discussion comes as new figures from the United Nations show that the WFP has only been able to provide food to 11 percent of people in the Idlib province, as Syria Deeply reported.
During today's talk, NPR journalist Deborah Amos pressed WFP's Etefa about the 11 percent figure.
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"How easy is it to move from the government controlled areas to the rebel areas and how often have you been able to do it?," Amos asked. "I just saw a figure that the UN put out that said that the WFP has only got about 11 percent of food aid going to Idlib."
Etefa put the figure much higher and insisted that they do manage to get food to the opposition areas. "As soon as there is a lull fighting or some cease fire for even a few hours, we are able to send food to these areas," she said. She added later: "So I would say it's not that low, it's not 11 percent. It's much more than that, it's probably in the range of 35 to 40 percent of the time we reach these opposition areas."
But this isn't the first time that concerns have been raised about where the funds for Syrian aid groups are really going. As GlobalPost reported, Doctors Without Borders, one of the only international aid groups to be working inside opposition-held areas, announced Wednesday that almost all international aid to Syria is being spent only in government-controlled regions.
You can watch a replay video of the full WFP panel on its Google event page.