Photo by Action Against Hunger, Syria.
As Syria marks its tenth year of conflict, 13.4 million people – 75% of the country’s population – are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, a 20% increase from 2020. The cost of the basic food basket has increased by 250% in the last year and is beyond the reach of many families.
Action Against Hunger is one of the few international organizations that has been able to operate in Syria since the beginning of the conflict. The organization calls for action to break the vicious cycle of mass hunger caused by the ongoing violence. Additionally, while emergency assistance is still desperately needed, it is not sufficient to meet the recovery needs of the population. The organization urges investment in lasting solutions that go beyond immediate aid distribution to rebuild water, agriculture, and employment systems.
“Many people have reduced their number of daily meals to two, buy food on credit, or have sold their livestock and belongings to raise money to feed themselves. It’s a massive phenomenon in the country, especially in Idlib and Aleppo in the northwest, which demonstrates the close links between war and hunger,” explains Nasr Muflahi, Country Director of Action Against Hunger in Syria, from Damascus.
With the country’s currency plummeting in value and inflation soaring, the population – exhausted after a decade of conflict – is developing extreme coping mechanisms. “We are seeing many children dropping out of school to work and a dangerous increase in child marriage,” Muflahi adds.
The population cites access to food as the current number one need, closely followed by employment, livelihood and shelter. The shortage of fuel further exacerbates the humanitarian crisis: “the running costs of agricultural machinery are becoming unaffordable for many farmers, and laborers are having to reduce working hours to line up for hours at gas stations.”
Syrian women will be decisive in the country’s future
“An end to the Syria crisis will only be possible with the full and active inclusion and participation of the millions of women affected by hunger and conflict, who have remained resilient and determined despite ten years of war the and countless risks to their safety they have suffered and continue to suffer,” says Eiman Zarrug, a member of Action Against Hunger’s team in Syria.
“They have lost loved ones and livelihoods, time and time again, yet do not give up,” continues Zarrug. “They become the breadwinners, find ways to work, earn an income, and ensure they take care of their families at the same time. An end to this crisis is only possible if women are at the heart of the peace process.”
Syrian women are also more likely to suffer from hunger and malnutrition than their male counterparts. Anemia among women and malnutrition among pregnant women are among the issues of greatest concern to Action Against Hunger.
“More than half a million pregnant women do not have access to adequate health services, and anemia that results from lack of micronutrients will have a major impact on their babies’ health at birth. Many of these consequences will be irreversible, limiting their children’s ability to learn and grow,” explains Chiara Saccardi, Head of Action Against Hunger for the Middle East Region. “In addition to child marriage, women have suffered from increased domestic violence and sexual harassment which multiply exponentially in conflicts.”
Syria needs to look ahead
The needs in the country today are radically different from those of a decade ago. Now, even as we continue to deliver emergency aid to meet immediate needs, Action Against Hunger is deploying and funding recovery programs to restore water networks, schools, and hospitals and focusing on solutions to improve food production.
“Water trucking and food aid rations can no longer be the solutions. It is neither sustainable nor dignified for people after ten years. It is time to address the rehabilitation of a country exhausted after a decade of war, facilitating the safe return – and I emphasize the word safe – of nearly five million refugees in neighboring countries and more than six million internally displaced people,” says Hélène Michou, advocacy coordinator for the Syrian crisis. Action Against Hunger is also urgently advocating for an immediate waiver of the international sanctions on humanitarian aid, which would facilitate the transfer of funds from abroad to banks in the country.
Action Against Hunger in Syria
Action Against Hunger has been working in Syria since 2008. Our assistance reaches 2.3 million people in 14 governorates, deploying food aid, providing shelter, and supporting livelihoods and mental health. Since the beginning of the conflict, we have been instrumental to ensuring that the most vulnerable people have access to safe drinking water.
After 10 years of conflict and hunger, here are the key facts:
- 13.4 million people are in need of humanitarian aid – twice as many as in 2011.
- 9.3 million people are food insecure, meaning there is no available food or no sustained access over time to healthy food. 2.2 million more people are at imminent risk of becoming food insecure.
- The cost of a basic food basket, which includes commodities such as rice, bread, wheat, lentils, sugar and vegetable oil, has increased by 250%.
- 6.1 million people are internally displaced and five million refugees have fled the country. More than 90% of refugees are in neighboring countries (Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq).
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