seven facts about the poverty crisis in SyriaSyria’s economy was once promising, and the nation even functioned as a resettlement country for refugees. However, the past seven years of war have disrupted economic activity and shaped Syria into one of the worst the humanitarian and economic catastrophes of the present time. As of 2018, the conflict is still continuous with no predicted end in sight. Below are seven facts about the poverty crisis in Syria and how the current war has contributed to the country’s extremely poor state.

Seven Facts About the Poverty Crisis in Syria

  1. The war isn’t over, and casualties are increasing on a daily basis.
    Since the Syrian Civil War in 2011, around half a million people have been killed. President Bashar al-Assad and government forces are carrying out chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin gas, in an attack against civilians. Right now, some of the worst violence is intensifying each day in Eastern Ghouta, located just 10 kilometers east of the capital Damascus. More than 600 residents are believed to have been killed and at least 2,000 injured since President Assad’s forces launched an air and ground invasion on February 18.
  1. Access to basic necessities in war-stricken areas is scarce.
    Civilians of the Eastern Ghouta area have limited or no access to food, medicine or sanitary supplies. Access to adequate health care is severely restricted for an estimated 350,000 civilians trapped in the area as well. Eastern Ghouta now has just one doctor per 3,600 people; 75 percent of Syria’s doctors and medical personnel have fled the country
  1. Syria has the biggest internally displaced population in the world.
    Since the civil war began, more than six million people have fled their homes but have not crossed Syria’s borders to find safety. Approximately 6,550 Syrians are displaced each day and live in camps, informal settlements or abandoned buildings along the Turkish border in Northern Syria.
  1. Kids are at great risk.
    Before the war, Syria had an actively strong education system, with almost 100 percent primary school enrollment and 70 percent secondary school enrollment. However, today about 1.75 million Syrian children and youth do not have access to an education. More than a third of schools in Syria have been damaged, destroyed or are being used as shelters by internally displaced people, and hundreds of thousands of teachers and professors have fled the country. Additionally, Syria is enduring the worst outbreak of child malnutrition yet, where an estimated 1.7 million children and pregnant or lactating women have been screened for acute malnutrition.
  1. There is an extreme lack of clean water and sanitation.
    Safe drinking water and basic sanitation services are scarce due to damaged pumps and pipelines, which increases vulnerability to epidemic diseases. In some areas with the greatest refugee populations, the water supply has hit a low of 22 liters per person per day, which is less than one-tenth of what the average American uses.
  1. Syria is lacking in natural resources.
    Although the country does have some oil, the country is not as abundant as it used to be when oil production peaked at 677,000 barrels per day in 2002. Since the growth of the Syrian conflict in 2011 to today, barrel production has declined to about 25,000 per day. Also, the increased armed conflict has impacted Syria as an agricultural nation. The ongoing war has caused major destruction to agricultural production, resulting in more than $16 billion of lost crop and livestock production and destroyed farming resources.
  1. The economy has deeply collapsed.
    As these seven facts about the poverty crisis in Syria indicate, years of conflict has destroyed the country’s economy. Syria’s economy has declined more than 70 percent since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, and now the country has one of the world’s highest inflation rates. As of December 2017, the inflation rate in Syria was recorded at 43.2 percent and reached an all-time high of 121.29 percent in 2013. Additionally, over half the population is unemployed and 82.5 percent are living below the poverty line.

These seven facts about the poverty crisis in Syria allow for a better understanding of the harsh reality of the country’s current state. While it may be easy to become desensitized to the Syrian conflict, it is easy to help through donations or mobilization. Reputable charity organizations including UNHCR, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam, the International Red Cross and Save the Children are all working to provide aid to the millions of Syrians affected by the war and poverty. Furthermore, taking action by emailing or writing to members of Congress and asking them to support aid to Syria is another way to help.

– Natalie Shaw

Photo: Flickr

Starving Syrians “Starvation is a different level of abhorrence because it is a slow, gruesome death”. -Dr. Leah Carmichael

The Syrian Civil War seems more and more hopeless as Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his regime gain more power over insurgents and civilians by intentionally starving them and using biological and chemical warfare. With Russian support, Assad has been able to avoid punishment for his war crimes and consequently gain more power.

The Syrian refugee crisis is probably the most notorious aspect of this ongoing war. As per UNHCR, there are 13.1 million people in need of humanitarian aid in Syria. More than five million Syrians have fled the country; however, there are still more than six million that have left their homes and are homeless within their country.

Further, the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reports that there are 6.5 million starving Syrians.

Despite Syria’s seemingly grim future, non-governmental agencies like Mercy Corps have stepped up to help in addition to governmental programs. Mercy Corps helps feed hundreds of thousands of people each month by donating flour to local bakeries and ensuring that people in need are able to get bread from the bakeries.

Nonetheless, Mercy Corps has faced some setbacks, as the Assad regime does not want it to assist starving Syrians. Dr. Leah Carmichael stated that “one of the main roles of the government is to ensure a food supply”.

Dr. Carmichael is a respected professor at the University of Georgia and a food insecurity expert. She has been researching the puzzle of Assad’s starvation war tool to determine why governments starve their people to gain power and later want their people’s support. She is also interested in the role of Mercy Corps in replenishing food for the Syrian people. The Borgen Project had the privilege of interviewing her on March 2, 2018, to gain more insight into the current situation and Mercy Corps.

“Food is really one of those things where if you’re hungry and you weren’t before, it catalyzes that kind of protest [referencing the Arab Spring, the start of the Syrian Civil War],” Carmichael stated in the interview. “Understanding that food is a major provision of welfare for a government and then understanding that the tactic of taking food away and making people hungry is either unintentionally or intentionally a way which governments lose their authority to rule”.

As for Mercy Corps shaping the outcome of the Syrian civil war, Carmichael says it is unintentional yet powerful in helping starving Syrians because “as much as you are keeping civilians alive, you are shaping the future legacy of this war as not just being one where the international community turned a blind eye as mass genocide occurred…as in this case, Mercy Corps is shaping the human side of it.”

However, Carmichael mentioned that Mercy Corps’ role is still a “drop in the bucket” in comparison to what a government could do. She said that everyday people can help this situation by determining “what active role if any should the U.S. play abroad”.

She also mentioned that a growing norm is starting to emerge in the international community called the responsibility to protect, “the idea is that pure sovereignty matters for states, but in the cases where you see sovereignty being used to promote genocide, the international community has a responsibility to step in to protect those people against their government”.

Thus, public pressure to take action could lead the U.S. to possibly intervene. However, public support is withering in terms of U.S. global intervention. As Carmichael stated in a 2017 TEDx Talk, “the abject horror of war is our indifference to it”. Doing good and helping people in need is very much “something that we as Americans like on paper.”

Suzy Hansen from the Washington Post shares a similar view in that Americans under President Trump are beginning to dislike more intervention as an “America First” ideal grows. Further, Americans are learning more about the “darker” parts of American history that have resulted from U.S. intervention, such as U.S.-backed coups. This suggests that many Americans are re-thinking the global role of the U.S., as intervention has the potential to cause more harm than good and can negatively impact relations and foreign policy.

To help starving Syrians, it seems that the international system needs to intervene, as Russian-led peace talks may only prolong suffering. However, “what to do” will prove to be a difficult and methodological decision to make.

– Mary McCarthy

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Syria
After six years of continuous conflict and civil war, hunger in Syria has become a major crisis. Providing the necessary food aid for Syrians has become increasingly difficult as the danger escalates and the number of refugees multiplies.

Over 11 million Syrians have fled their homes to other Syrian cities or neighboring countries in search of safety. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are over 4.8 million registered Syrian refugees. As the conflict continues, the issue of hunger in Syria intensifies. Despite these difficulties, international organizations are doing everything they can to help Syrians in need. Here are five facts about the triumphs and challenges of hunger in Syria:

  1. According to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, 8.7 million people in Syria are food insecure.
    Food insecurity refers to the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient amount of affordable and nutritious food. Soaring food prices have only exacerbated the situation. Prices for bread, the cornerstone of the Syrian diet, have increased by more than 100% since 2014.
  2. The ShareTheMeal app has helped feed nearly 25,000 Syrians over the past year.
    The ShareTheMeal app allows participants to donate just $0.50 in order to feed a child for an entire day. Since November 2015, ShareTheMeal has provided Syrian refugee children and mothers with food support for an entire year.
  3. Food production in Syria has dropped by 40% since 2010.
    Nearly half of Syria’s population lives in rural regions. The war has destroyed agricultural infrastructure and irrigation systems, which has, in turn, decreased production. Wheat, in particular, has suffered dramatically from both the conflict and low rainfall.
  4. The World Food Program (WFP) is providing 240,000 Syrian children with nutrient supplements to prevent malnutrition.
    Child malnutrition can lead to stunting, disease and even death. In order to prevent undernutrition, WFP provides ready-to-eat, specialized nutritional products to thousands of Syrian children under the age of 5.
  5. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) has distributed food parcels to over 2.5 million people.
    SARC is one of the only organizations working in the entirety of Syria to provide humanitarian aid. Every month, SARC distributes food parcels and health care items to over three million people in need.

Although it will take $86.5 million this year to assist the nearly three million people in need who remain in the country, hunger in Syria can be diminished. WFP, UNHCR and their partners have taken great strides to accomplish this goal. With an increase in the International Affairs budget, the U.S. can also help save the lives of millions of Syrians suffering from hunger.

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: Flickr