Syria facing food crisis following devastating earthquake

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The World Food Programme says it requires 450 million dollars just to maintain its emergency food assistance to Syria, including to those in earthquake-affected areas.

The U.N. Food Agency’s Deputy Country Director for Syria was briefing journalists from Damascus in the aftermath the devastation wrought by the February 6th earthquake which affected both Türkiye and war-affected northwestern Syria.

While the death-toll across both countries now exceeds 50 000, more than 8 500 perished in Syria alone, while thousands more were injured and displaced.

On a visit to the region this past weekend, the WFP’s Chief David Beasley described the scale of the devastation as truly incomprehensible, and in Syria specifically a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe where, after 12 years of civil war, a region left with gaping capacity deficits in dealing with the impact of a disaster of this magnitude.

Over 12.1 million people are already food insecure in Syria with an additional three million at the doorstep of hunger.

WFP’s Deputy Country Director for Syria, Ross Smith, has described the situation the situation in Syria as an unprecedented economic crisis.

“That’s two thirds of the population of the country. We have an unprecedented economic crisis in Syria that has been getting worse year on year. So, we now have the average monthly salary in Syria. The family can afford three days’ worth of food. So, it’s it’s quite it’s quite shocking. And when you go out on the streets and you see it, you can really see some of the desperation there.”

Smith has also lamented the skyrocketing food prices.

“There’s been a tenfold increase in the price of food in the last three years. For example, we know there are many newly-displaced households that have lost their homes, have lost their incomes, have lost their livelihoods. You know, and I can’t stress enough the absolute desperate destitution and poverty in some of these areas. We still have households that are sleeping in the street in the cold. It’s below zero in parts of northwest Syria at night.”

He says that more than 400 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies have crossed into Syria through border crossing from Türkiye since the earthquake but cross line aid from the government-controlled regions to rebel-held territories had proven less successful.

“Crossline access from Aleppo areas into areas of northwest Syria, into Idlib are very important and we are disappointed they haven’t happened yet. So, we are standing by and we’re ready to move with convoys from Aleppo crossline. And it’s important that all partners with influence to keep pushing for this.”

Funding now is their biggest concern, as Ross Smith explains, “We need more than $450 million just to maintain our emergency food assistance for the rest of 2023, including to these earthquake affected households. So, without sufficient resources, we will have to do cuts. We’ll have to cut significantly the number of people that we provide support to, and that’s going to come on top of an earthquake crisis and an economic crisis. So, it’s critical that we continue to have the support in Syria.”

While there’s currently relative humanitarian interventions since the devastating earthquake, Smith says he is worried about the long-term living conditions of the people in that country.

“I am concerned about the long term, however, because that sort of support from, you know, charitable contributions and both the local community in the context of Syria, the economic crisis I mentioned can only hold up for so long. So, we’re quite concerned what happens when the earthquake is not on the front page of the news anymore. And these hundreds of thousands of people continue to need support.”

There are warnings that if the funding doesn’t materialise, between 50 to 60% of the 5.5 million people currently being reached in Syria every month would need to be cut from WFP’s feeding programmes.

Video: WFP requires $450 million to maintain food aid to Syria