Food insecurity in Syria reaches record levels: UN

The number of Syrians who lack access to sufficient food has reached a record 12.4 million, or nearly 60 per cent of the population, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported on Wednesday, citing “alarming” new national data.

Economic crisis, job losses stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, and soaring food prices have added to the plight of people who have been displaced and worn down by a decade of conflict, the Rome-based United Nations (UN) agency said.

The findings are the result of a nationwide food security assessment last year carried out by WFP and partners late last year.

“The situation has never been worse. After 10 years of conflict, Syrian families have exhausted their savings as they face a spiralling economic crisis, ” Sean O’Brien, WFP Representative and Country Director in Syria, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the cost of basic foods to feed a family for a month – such as bread, rice, lentils, oil and sugar – far exceeds average salaries.

“It is alarming that a simple meal is beyond the reach of families across Syria, and this new data shows humanitarian assistance is the difference between putting a meal on the table and going to bed hungry. Lifesaving support has never been so crucial, ” O’Brien said.

The WFP further estimates that the number of Syrians who are severely food insecure, meaning they cannot survive without food assistance, has doubled in the past year to 1.3 million. Another 1.8 million people are at risk unless urgent action is taken, the agency warned.

Syrians have been grappling with a rise in the price of basic items over the past year as the national currency, the Syrian Pound, has plummeted in value.

Parents are making “desperate decisions to survive”, WFP said. These measures include eating less food so they can feed their children, going into debt, and selling assets and livestock to get money.

Additionally, half of population has lost one or more sources of income due to the economic downturn and the pandemic.

The WFP said it provides lifesaving food assistance each month to nearly five million of the most vulnerable people in Syria. The agency is seeking an additional $375 million to continue its operations through July.