The Syrian Arab Republic is a country in the Middle East that has a rich and unique history going as far back as 10,000 years ago. More recently, political instability led to the Syrian civil war which has created a humanitarian crisis that extends far beyond its borders. It has been nearly a decade since the Syrian civil war first began in 2011. The U.N. approximated that over 13 million people in Syria were in need of some type of humanitarian assistance. Over 5 million people seek asylum in the surrounding countries of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic soared to the forefront of the humanitarian crisis.
Nearly one-third of Syria’s population is dealing with food insecurity partly due to an increase in food prices. The COVID-19 lockdown measures and the collapse of the Lebanese economy have caused food prices to increase by 200%. This makes them 20 times higher than they were before the civil war. Additionally, Syria’s local currency has been devalued by two-thirds. Consequently, people cannot afford to buy available food.
Efforts to Alleviate Hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic
- Turkish Exports: In May 2020, the U.N. placed restrictions on exports as a way to combat the spread of COVID-19. Shortly after, the U.N. authorize Turkish exports to alleviate hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic. This aid from Turkey is a crucial survival source for 2.8 million people in the northwestern part of Syria.
- Extending the Lifeline: The U.N.’s Emergency Relief is working to extend intraregional aid deliveries. The U.N. has authorized aid deliveries to the Syrian people in several resolutions since April 2012. The latest resolution, resolution 2504, was to expire in July 2020. On May 14, 2020, the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres requested that the Security Council extend the authorization of this cross-border aid for another 12 months. In Guterres’ report, he noted that this U.N. cross-border operation helped an average of 2 million Syrians each month in 2019.
- Large and Small-scale Efforts: Many formerly displaced people have returned to their land. However, many people are facing issues resuming food production. As of June 2020, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) introduced several programs to help more than 300,000 households at risk of food insecurity. About 155,000 households will directly benefit from livestock production support which includes vaccinations and anti-parasite treatments. On a smaller scale, about 3,000 households will benefit from better nutrition that local school food gardens provide.
- Creative Solutions: Since 2012, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) has provided more than $3 billion in emergency food relief. In January 2020, USAID committed to providing emergency food assistance through two specific methods. Firstly, USAID is providing emergency food aid to newly displaced peoples through ready-to-eat rations, food vouchers and locally or regionally procured food baskets. Secondly, they are continuing to support local bakery inventions to help with the production of bread. The FFP has helped over 4 million people in Syria and over 1 million Syrian refugees since 2012.
It is evident that hunger in the Syrian Arab Republic is the result of a combination of factors following the eruption of the civil war. International organizations and NGOs dedicated their resources to help the Syrian people, especially as COVID-19 threatens much of the progress that the country has previously made.
– Camryn Anthony