Middle East

Islamic State: UN alarmed by 'IS logo' on food aid

internally displaced Syrians receiving food aid after being evacuated from Ghouta, Damascus, Syria, 17 January 2015 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Food aid is a lifeline for many of the 6.5 million internally displaced Syrians

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says it is "extremely concerned" by images seeming to show its food parcels in Syria being handed out bearing the logo of the Islamic State militant group.

The pictures on social media appear to be from the town of Deir Haf, where WFP distributed food last August.

"WFP condemns this manipulation of desperately needed food aid," said Muhannad Hadi, the UN agency's emergency regional coordinator.

It is working to verify the images.

WFP supplies are distributed across Syria by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, whose warehouses were raided by IS militants in September.

Cardboard boxes of food seen in the pictures may have originated there, the organisation said.

Humanitarian crisis

Some 6.5 million people, half of them children, are believed to be internally displaced within Syria.

An estimated 10.8 million are in need of humanitarian assistance inside the country, with 4.6 million living in areas under siege or hard to access.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The four-year conflict has caused widespread destruction and left many Syrians dependent on aid

The WFP provides aid to 4 million Syrians inside Syria and almost half as many in neighbouring countries, the organisation says.

On its last visit to Deir Hafr, where the pictures were taken, it delivered supplies designed to feed 8,500 people for a month.

Meanwhile, with no end to the four-year conflict in sight, the death toll is continuing to rise.

Some 76,000 people were killed in Syria in 2014, bringing the overall death total to more than 200,000 and making it the deadliest year so far in the four-year conflict, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Much of the violence comes as a result of advances by IS, which now controls large swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq, as well as the rise of other militant groups.

US-led air strikes against IS and fighting between government troops and rebels have also accounted for large numbers of deaths and displacements.

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