International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Food prices surging in Syria as winter arrives

Surveys show the price of bread has risen by up to 500 per cent with four in five Syrians worried food is running out

16 Dec 2013 - Figures released today by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) show that millions of Syrians are facing a food crisis after the first winter storm of the season. The IRC survey reports the cost of bread has risen in some areas by 500 percent over two years, with 78 percent of communities surveyed now identifying food as their greatest need. Accessing clean water is difficult for more than half of the communities, the survey found.

Material goods are also in short supply as temperatures plummet to below freezing. Blankets are unavailable for purchase in 95 percent of the communities surveyed, and where they are readily available, the cost ($27 USD) is approximately 93 percent of the average monthly income. Many community leaders told the IRC parents that four in five parents see children’s clothing and baby supplies are their greatest material needs. The IRC also found severe shortages of basic medical items such as antibiotics, painkillers, and gauze in eight governorates.

The IRC surveys are ongoing and have already reached more than 500 communities across Syria. The goal is to better determine the needs of civilians. The United Nations says some 9.3 million Syrians are in need of aid, more than one in every three people still in the country. 

IRC president and CEO David Miliband said: “These findings show that starvation is now threatening large parts of the Syrian population. With polio on the loose, and a sub-zero winter already here, the people of Syria now face months of more death and despair. We are witnessing a humanitarian catastrophe that is receiving far too little attention and funding around the world.”

The IRC released some of its findings on the same day the United Nations made its largest funding appeal ever, to help Syrians and host communities make it through the difficult months ahead. The IRC’s David Miliband called for global donors to dig deep, and to ensure aid can get to where it needs to go. 

“Today’s new UN appeal is critical, with the current appeals only 68 percent funded and more than nine million Syrians in need of aid. Agencies delivering aid require immediate safe access to civilians, across borders and conflict lines, which is why the IRC is calling for a humanitarian resolution to be passed at the UN Security Council.”

IRC regional director, Mark Schnellbaecher said: “While the civil war is the cause of the humanitarian crisis, lack of freedom of movement both across international borders and within Syria is a major contributor to the current disaster. Humanitarian aid shipments are often held up at Syria’s borders, while inside the country, a patchwork of ever-shifting areas of control is severely limiting access to those in the most need.

 “Recent United Nations figures bear out the access challenges with estimates of those living in hard to reach areas totaling 2.5 million, while there are close to 250,000 who cannot be reached at all because they live in areas under siege.”

Media Contacts

Ned Colt (Amman)

Oliver Money (New York) 
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Paul Donohoe (London) 
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NOTE TO EDITORS: For more information, field visits, or interviews with experts on this issue, please contact the IRC staff above and follow @IRCpress for updates.

About the International Rescue Committee: A global leader in humanitarian assistance for nearly 80 years, the IRC works in more than 40 countries offering help and hope to refugees and others uprooted by disaster, conflict and oppression. During crises, IRC teams provide health care, shelter, and clean water, sanitation, learning programs for children and special aid for women. As emergencies subside, the IRC stays to revive livelihoods and help shattered communities recover and rebuild. The IRC also helps resettle refugees given sanctuary in the United States. A tireless advocate for the most vulnerable, the IRC is committed to restoring hope, dignity and opportunity. Visit for more information.

The IRC's Response to the Syria Crisis

Lean how the IRC is providing support to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees as well as Syrians inside their war-torn country.