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One million Syrians going hungry as fighting rages, says UN

Muzaffar Salman / Reuters

A boy warms himself around a fire during cold weather in Aleppo, Syria, on Jan. 5.

About 1 million Syrians are going short of food, most of them in conflict zones, due to government restrictions on aid distribution, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

The U.N.'s World Food Program is handing out rations to about 1.5 million people in Syria each month, still short of the 2.5 million deemed to be in need, WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said.

Bread and fuel particularly are in short supply.

The WFP is unable to step up assistance as only a handful of aid agencies are authorized to distribute relief goods in Syria, where more than 60,000 people have been killed during 21 months of conflict.

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"Our main partner, the (Syrian Arab) Red Crescent, is overstretched and has no more capacity to expand further," Byrs told a news briefing in Geneva.

Long lines in front of bakeries are now normal in many parts of Syria and there are reports of shortages of wheat flour in most parts of the country due to damage to mills, most of which are located in the embattled Aleppo area, she said.

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"WFP is making arrangements to import fuel for humanitarian use, to resolve the impact of a significant fuel shortage throughout the country that has been affecting the agency's ability to move food on time -- from the port to packaging facilities -- and to find trucks to dispatch food for distribution," she said.

The United Nations last month appealed for $1.5 billion to help save the millions of Syrians suffering from what it called a dramatically deteriorating humanitarian situation.

Follow Syria coverage on NBCNews.com

An estimated 4 million people in the country need urgent humanitarian aid, including an estimated 2 million displaced from their homes by fighting between the forces of President Bashar Assad and rebels trying to topple him.

The number of registered Syrian refugees has leapt from 500,000 to nearly 600,000 in the past month, U.N. figures show.

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