UNITED NATIONS, March 14 (Xinhua) -- The World Food Programme (WFP) said on Thursday that two years into the Syria crisis, it faces severe challenges in expanding its emergency operation to feed millions of conflict-affected people due to funding shortages, deputy UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey said here.
The WFP's plans to reach 2.5 million people inside Syria and more than one million refugees in neighboring countries are " threatened by a lack of resources," del Buey said at a daily news briefing here.
"To date, it has distributed more than 83,000 metric tons of food in Syria," he said. "Outside the country, it has distributed more than one million food vouchers and half a million food parcels. In Jordan's Za'atari camp, more than three million meals were handed out in three months."
The WFP started its emergency operation in Syria in August 2011, about five months after the outbreak of the political crisis in the country.
WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said that as the crisis enters its third year, now is not the time to reduce or stop the UN agency's operations.
"This is a global crisis that requires a global response so that we can meet the growing and urgent needs of Syrians," said Cousin. "We are grateful for the generous contributions that we have received so far from around 30 government donors, including Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, United Kingdom, United States, but needs are escalating."
The food agency plans to reach 2.5 million people inside Syria and more than a million in neighbouring countries. However, this response is threatened by a lack of resources, and Cousin said the WFP needs an urgent 156 million U.S. dollars to continue its work to feed Syrians from now until June.
The WFP is funded entirely by voluntary contributions and delays in the arrival of funding mean that it will not be able to provide the increased food rations that it planned to deliver to Syrian families in March.
Syria has been wracked by violence since March 2011. Up to 70, 000 people have reportedly died, more than one million have fled to neighboring countries, two million have been internally displaced and up to four million are in need of humanitarian assistance.
"This is a critical time for Syrians," Cousin said. "They have exhausted their savings and they need more help as this crisis goes into its third year, so now is not the time to reduce or stop our operations."
"We are determined to continue our life-saving assistance but we need ongoing support from generous donors -- and the support of new donors -- until a political solution is in place," she said.