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Press Release

Hunger spreading across Syria amid COVID-19 and economic collapse

International agencies call for Brussels Conference to address fall-out from the pandemic

Syrians who have already endured almost a decade of war and displacement are now facing unprecedented levels of hunger leaving millions of people acutely vulnerable to COVID-19, international agencies warned today ahead of a key annual conference on the crisis.

COVID-19 restrictions, the collapse of the Syrian pound, and the displacement of millions of people have led to an unprecedented number of families in Syria who are no longer able to put food on the table or make enough money to afford basic necessities. A staggering 9.3 million Syrians are now going to sleep hungry and more than another 2 million are at risk of a similar fate – part of an overall rise of 42 per cent in the number of Syrians facing food insecurity since last year.

Hosted by the EU and the UN on June 30, the Brussels Conference aims to raise funds and agree on policy changes that will help Syrians inside the country and in the region. The agencies - International Rescue Committee, CARE International, World Vision International, Humanity & Inclusion, Oxfam, Mercy Corps and Norwegian Refugee Council - warn that unless funding and humanitarian access are increased, many Syrians, including those living as refugees in the region, will be pushed to the brink of starvation. Almost a decade of war has thrown Syrians into a spiral of despair and destitution that keeps worsening every year. International assistance is needed now more than ever.

In the northwest, a Turkey-Russia mediated ceasefire faces a bleak fate, with fighting and aerial bombardments reported since May. Home to over 4 million people, many of whom have been displaced multiple times, Idlib and northern Aleppo governorates face a potential catastrophe if there is a COVID-19 outbreak. Many live in squalid makeshift overcrowded camps or sleep out in the open. Water is scarce, and the health and civilian infrastructures are decimated. In recent weeks, a new wave of violence in southern Idlib has forced hundreds of families to pack up their few belongings and leave their homes and tents once again.

In the northeast, the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed over a month ago, and with it concerns over a lack of preparedness remain high. Lack of COVID-19 testing capacity, chronically under-stocked health facilities, and the main water pumping station - servicing 460,000 people - regularly being out of commission, continue to be the daily reality. Like in the northwest, taking measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is especially difficult in the many overcrowded camps and informal settlements across the region.

In government-held areas, as in neighbouring countries hosting refugees, Syrians are facing the reality that the threat of COVID-19, the inability to work and the spiraling economic decline in the region is making their situation harder than ever.

International agencies are calling on global leaders to scale up financial support in comparison to previous years for Syrians in their country and those displaced in the region so that they can have a chance not only to survive, but to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity. They are also calling for the United Nations Security Council to renew the Syria cross-border resolution for northwest Syria for a period of 12 months and to re-authorize access to northeast Syria to ensure that vulnerable people are able to receive lifesaving assistance. More access to those in need is crucial right now so that the humanitarian community can support families as they struggle through the pandemic and the economic crisis that is sweeping across the country.

ENDS

About the International Rescue Committee in Syria

The IRC has been delivering aid in Syria since 2012, and last year - along with partners - the organisation delivered services to almost a million people in the country. The IRC is the largest provider of health care in northeast Syria and is the only international NGO providing mental health services and emotional support across all its medical facilities. The IRC runs women’s empowerment programmes in a number of camps and cities across the region, and provides legal support to IDPs and refugees as well.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.