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Food Security in Syria

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The ongoing civil war in Syria continues to raise fresh concerns about food security in the nation.

For over three years Syrian rebels have battled government forces throughout the country. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported last month that over 160,000 people have died since the beginning of the conflict. The number includes civilians, rebel forces and government military personnel.

To date, the conflict has seen 6.5 million Syrians become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and another 2.7 million Syrian refugees flee to neighboring countries.

Yet, the impact of the conflict combined with a recent drought raises questions about food security in the country and its neighboring regions.

Since last year, much of the Middle East, including parts of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, has witnessed a drier than average weather pattern. Syria itself has experienced rainfall deficits during this time.

Farmers and others associated with the nation’s agricultural sector have felt the brunt of the deficit. Wheat — the national staple food crop in the country — as well as barley, have seen production declines since the beginning of the conflict. The civil war has also hampered the country’s production of cereal.
A recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concluded that continued and strengthened assistance is required “for food and the agricultural sector to support livelihoods” in the war-torn country.

Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, such as Lebanon and Turkey, are seen by some as a burden to these countries’ food supplies. However, a May 2014 report by the World Food Programme (WFP) indicates food consumption in these countries appears to be considerably stable given the amount of refugees entering bordering countries.

To the relief of both Syrians and observers of the crisis, the region has experienced some positive news during the past month.

Several weeks ago, the Red Cross pledged to donate food rations to 60,000 people in Aleppo in both rebel and government areas of the city.

Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States will pledge more than $290 million to the country in humanitarian aid. The aid package includes $135 million dedicated to providing food assistance through the WFP.

With the civil war continuing to impact the nation’s economy, an improvement in drought conditions may not be enough to stabilize food security within the region. A more sustained international effort by wealthy nations to provide food aid is the most likely immediate answer to the crisis.

 — Ethan Safran

Sources: World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Syria HR, U.S. Department of State, British Broadcasting Corporation
Photo: Eco Watch