Hunger spreads in Syria as conflict passes 12-year milestone and earthquakes worsen current situation

Food distribution in Aleppo Sukari area

 DAMASCUS - An average monthly wage can provide for about a quarter of a family’s food needs in Syria according to the statements provided by the UN World Food Programme, highlighting the importance of humanitarian assistance to the area as living conditions worsen due to the 12-year-long conflict and the recent earthquakes.

 Data recently obtained show that 12.1 million people, which is more than half of the population in Syria, is uncertain whether they will be able to provide enough food for their families and the number is expected to grow by at least another 2.9 million. 

 Kenn Crossley, WFP Country Director in Syria, says: ‘Bombardment, displacement, isolation, drought, economic meltdown, and now earthquakes of staggering proportions. Syrians are remarkably resilient but there’s only so much that people can take […] At what point does the world say enough?’ 

 The earthquakes of Feb. 6, 2023, caused the socio-economic situation of the country to deeply worsen, but prices were soaring even before the natural disaster occurred. WFP claims that inflation on food items has caused prices to double in the past year, making the items 13 more expensive than they were 3 years ago, on average.

 A call for urgent humanitarian assistance has been made right after the earthquake, people were not only physically hurt but the rates at which malnutrition grew among children are dangerously high. Prices of food and fuel are at their highest over the past decade – caused not only by inflation but also by currency devaluation.

 Syria used to be considered a self-sufficient country but is now ranked among the six countries with the highest food insecurity in the world and is fully dependent on food imports. Syria’s wheat production fell by 75 percent due to damaged infrastructure and high costs. 

 Corinne Fleischer, the WFP’s Regional Director for the Middle East, North Africa, and Eastern Europe, says: ‘The world has now forgotten us. That’s what we hear from many Syrians, and it’s a stark reminder that we need to do more […]We need the funds to continue to provide food for millions of families until Syrians can feed themselves again. The recent earthquakes have highlighted the urgent need for increased humanitarian assistance in Syria’.

 WFP currently provides food assistance for 5.5 million people in Syria by distributing food, organizing nutrition programs, school meals cash assistance, etc. A funding crunch is threatening the continuity of the aid to Syria, WFP requires a minimum of US$ 450 million in order to keep assisting the 5.5 million people across the country for the rest of 2023. If no sufficient resources are found, WFP will be forced to reduce the number of beneficiaries they are helping to begin in July.

 WFP is looking for better options and long-term solutions to help communities in need, and also for Syria to build reliance and be less dependent on WFP’s assistance – Researchers believe that for each US$ 1 that is invested in this cause, US$ 3 can be reduced from the money spent in assistance.