- 3 min read
- Published: 15th March 2022
“Before we feared dying of war, now we fear dying of hunger”: Ukraine crisis propelling hunger in Syria
Eleven years after the Syrian conflict began, six in ten Syrians do not know where their next meal is coming from, said Oxfam today. It warned that reliance on imports from Russia means the current crisis in Europe could ripple into Syria, exacerbating food shortages and causing food prices to soar. In the last year, food prices in Syria have doubled.
Oxfam spoke to 300 Syrians in government-held areas of the country. Nearly 90 percent said they could only afford to eat bread, rice, and, occasionally, some vegetables. After ten years of conflict, the shockwaves of Covid-19, and the Lebanese banking crisis coupled with the Ukrainian crisis are having serious repercussions for the floundering economy, disrupting food and fuel imports and causing the Syrian pound to plummet at breakneck speed.
Moutaz Adham, Country Director for Oxfam in Syria, said: “People have been pushed to the brink by a collapsing economy. Around Damascus, people queue for hours to get subsidized bread at state bakeries, while young children rifle through garbage trying to find scraps of food. Struggling to put food on the table means many families are turning to extreme ways to cope: going into debt to buy food, taking children out of school to work, and reducing the number of meals each day. Marrying off young daughters has become another negative coping strategy as it is one less mouth to feed. This is against a backdrop of 90 percent of Syrians living in poverty, unemployment rate at 60 percent and a monthly minimum wage in the public sector of approximately 26 US dollars.”
He added: “Syria relies heavily on Russia for imports of wheat. The crisis in Ukraine has seen the Syrian government starting to ration food reserves, including wheat, sugar, oil, and rice amid fears of shortages and price surges, and this could be just the beginning.”
Hala from Deir-ez-Zor told Oxfam: “It makes no sense for us to think about tomorrow, if we cannot even figure out what to put on our table today to feed our children.”
Majed from Rural Damascus told Oxfam: “I work 13 hours a day to feed my children, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. Sometimes I wish there is more than 24 hours a day, so I can do more work. I’m exhausted and don’t know how I will survive this harsh life with my family.”
Moutaz Adham added: “An average income only covers half of basic expenses.”
Notes to editors
- Oxfam has been working in Syria since 2013 to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by the conflict. In the last year, Oxfam’s work reached 1.2 million people. We provide clean drinking water to people, emergency cash assistance, and soap, hygiene, and other materials. We help farmers get back to farming, and bakers back to baking. We run Covid-19 awareness raising campaigns. Oxfam is calling on international donors to focus on funding early recovery and social protection while also keep focusing on emergency needs and responses, including hunger response activities to save lives now.
- 12.4 million people in Syria are food insecure, child labor occurs in 84% of communities, and child marriage for adolescent girls in 71% of communities, according to the latest figures from the Humanitarian Needs Overview.
- The price of the World Food Program (WFP) standard food basket (a group of essential food items) has increased by 97% in the past year.
- Last year, the Syrian government reportedly had to import 1.5 million tons of wheat, mainly from Russia.
- As part of its Emergency and Food Security response, Oxfam interviewed 300 beneficiaries in government held areas of Aleppo, Deir-ez-Zor and Rural Damascus governorates, 100 beneficiaries in each governorate and found that 88 percent eat only bread, rice and occasionally vegetables. Additionally, 60 percent of people Oxfam spoke to say they earn less than what they need to cover their food needs. 10 percent said they rely only on bread and tea to survive. Since subsidized bread provides approximately 840 kcal per day, this amounts to only 40 percent of calories needed to survive (an average family of 5 can buy 12 bundles of subsidized bread, each consisting of 7 loaves, this leaves 2.4 loaves per person per day, having no more than 350 kcal). Strikingly, only 1.5 percent said they can afford to buy meat and only on rare occasions.