New York, 15 March 2022 — After eleven years of conflict, humanitarian needs of Syrians continue to reach record highs. Over a decade of conflict and displacement are being compounded by the impact of COVID-19, a devastating drought, and now a collapsing economy leaving millions of vulnerable Syrians struggling to survive. All while the recent invasion of Ukraine threatens to have devastating implications on the price of food for already cash-strapped families.
Across the war-torn country, more than 60% of the population - 12 million people - are facing hunger and wondering how they will put food on the table for their families.
The average price of food is higher than at any time in the past nine years, with price rises of staple foods, water, and transportation, coupled with a significant deterioration in the value of the Syrian Pound and Turkish Lira (commonly used in northwest Syria) leaving families dangerously overstretched. According to OCHA, average household expenditure in Syria now exceeds available income by as much as 50%.
Without adequate access to livelihoods or humanitarian assistance, many Syrians are now resorting to extreme ways of coping for survival.
Tanya Evans, the IRC’s Country Director in Syria, said:
“Our teams and partners inside Syria continue to witness the devastating impact on families who have now endured more than 11 years of conflict and crisis. Many tell us that they are now at breaking point. In a recent IRC survey, conducted in northwest Syria, 46% of respondents told us it is now common for children to drop out of school to work and provide for their families. The situation is particularly desperate for women and girls, with 1 in 4 respondents telling us that it is common for members of their community to resort to child marriage as a way of coping with rising poverty. The IRC and our partners are working tirelessly to support women and girls in need of protection in Syria, but with the needs outstripping the services available we are increasingly concerned about those who fall between the cracks.”
2021 saw the worst drought in Syria in more than 70 years. Affecting access to drinking water, electricity generation and irrigation water for millions. The water crisis decimated the country’s wheat harvest, with production down from 2.8 million tonnes in 2020 to just 1.05 million tonnes in 2021. As a result, wheat prices have now soared to record highs placing even further strain on already stretched household budgets. Even before the drought, Syria was increasingly reliant on imports to ensure there was enough wheat in the country. With most wheat imports coming from Russia, the reverberating impact of the invasion of Ukraine is likely to have a far-reaching, and potentially devastating, impact on food insecurity in Syria throughout 2022 and beyond.
David Miliband, President and CEO of the IRC said:
“Eleven years from the start of the Syria conflict and Syrians inside and outside the country find themselves at the center of a catastrophic mix of violence, hunger, poverty and isolation that only promises to get worse this year. Ukraine is rightly dominating global headlines, but we should also not forget the places where the laws of war and accountability have been flouted for years. Syria is a prime case where violations of international humanitarian law have become the norm. Now is not the time for us to turn our back on the people of Syria.”
“For those reliant on humanitarian assistance in the north of the country, the looming threat to cross-border operations risk being the latest in a long line of instances where the international community has failed to protect and deliver for ordinary civilians. We can, and must, do better to ensure that perpetrators are held to account and that those in need of humanitarian assistance are not left behind.”
As Syria marks yet another year of conflict and worsening crisis, the IRC is calling on the international community to:
- Sufficiently fund the forthcoming two-year Humanitarian Response Plan, recognising both the increasingly severe immediate needs that must be addressed, as well as the supporting sustainable medium-term interventions.
- Ensure that the UN Security Council reauthorises the provisions of the cross-border Resolution 2585 for another 12 months in July 2022 to avoid a major worsening of the humanitarian situation.
- Prioritise the protection of civilians, humanitarian actors and civilian infrastructure by reaffirming the importance of adherence to international humanitarian law and strengthening efforts to hold perpetrators of IHL violations in Syria to account.