Wilkes audience told of Syrian food crisis

Gordana JergerBy Jon O’Connell

WILKES-BARRE — “Hunger doesn’t make the news,” Gordana Jerger told a roomful of Wilkes University students and teachers. “There’s nothing sensational about it,” she said.

But at a Wilkes seminar set up through the Humpty Dumpty Institute, an organization that works closely with the United Nations, Jerger, a soft-spoken Croatian and a deputy director of the UN World Food Programme, gave her audience Tuesday facts about the millions displaced by civil war in Syria.

While the nearly 3-year-old conflict has grown slowly, the country of about 22.4 million has seen nearly half its population displaced or in need of immediate food assistance.

She called the food shortage in Syria her organization’s “largest and most complex crisis.”

“The conflict of Syria has caused millions to flee their homes creating this humanitarian crisis in which food is the top priority,” Jerger said.

Through international government funding and private donations, the program spends $30 million per week to package flour, peas or beans and cooking oil, Jerger said.

Monthly, the program contracts truckers to move 31,500 tons of food to distribution centers. Some trucks never make it through.

“When there is fighting going on, we cannot get there,” Jerger said.

In a month, the program feeds up to 3 million displaced Syrians, Jerger said.

While the threat of chemical-weapons use has calmed considerably, the violence still grows, Jerger said. Many simply have no way of getting food. The approaching winter is also a concern.

Jergen spoke little of the war, and said the program takes no sides She spoke only of the great need to feed the victims of violence.

“We believe fighting hunger is the world’s greatest solvable problem,” Jerger said.

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