Syria has the sixth-highest number of food-insecure people in the world. The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that 12.1 million Syrians – more than half the population – are in the grip of hunger. Another 2.9 million people are at risk of becoming food insecure – a 52 percent increase in only one year. Nutrition is deteriorating as stunting and malnutrition rates rise in some parts of the country.
Record food and fuel prices, exacerbated by the crisis in Ukraine, the continuing conflict in some parts of the country and disastrous earthquakes, have taken a devastating toll on Syria’s most vulnerable people. The global economic crisis means the number of people receiving subsidized food and fuel under the national social safety net programmes is being reduced.
WFP has been forced to progressively reduce the size of its food rations due to lack of sufficient funding and supply chain disruptions. Families are having to choose between food, school, medicine or fuel, as they cannot afford them all. Early marriage and removing children from school are on the rise.
WFP provides life-saving food assistance to 5.6 million people in Syria each month. This assistance supports families with food rations and/or value vouchers to buy food, provides schoolchildren across the country with healthy snacks, and prevents and treats malnutrition in mothers and children.
What the World Food Programme is doing to respond to the Syria emergency
WFP provides food to 5.6 million people in all 14 governorates, to prevent them from slipping further into hunger. WFP distributes this food to some of the country’s most vulnerable families who have been affected by conflict, economic decline and climate change. WFP is scaling up its cash-based assistance, for families to buy the food of their choice from WFP-contracted retailers. This in turn creates job opportunities within the local market and injects cash into the local economy.
WFP’s nutrition programme helps children get the best possible start in life and supports pregnant and nursing mothers in fighting and preventing malnutrition. WFP currently supports over 300,000 pregnant and nursing women and girls, and children aged between 6 months and 2 years, to access nutrient-rich foods and improve their diets across all 14 governorates in Syria. This includes supporting women with value vouchers to diversify their diets, improve vitamin and mineral intake, and meet their nutritional needs.
WFP provides fortified snacks, fresh meals and food assistance, through electronic vouchers, to more than 460,000 students. This food is a key step in helping improve students’ health and nutrition, while motivating their families to keep sending them to school. The fresh school meals programme in Aleppo trains and employs vulnerable women to prepare the fresh meals, providing them with an income to support their families and become financially independent.
To promote self-sufficient communities and reduce their reliance on urgent assistance, WFP helps families across Syria to restore their livelihoods, improve their food security and enhance their resilience to future shocks. Through vocational training and the rehabilitation of local infrastructure, such as irrigation channels and bakeries, Syrian families will have the opportunities to remain on their farms, grow their own food and improve their incomes.
Within hours of the first earthquake in February 2023, WFP quickly mobilized to provide ready-to-eat food rations, hot and fresh meals, and food baskets to those affected. WFP has assisted nearly 3 million people in both government and non-government-controlled areas.
While a political solution is imperative, funding remains crucial in helping people survive this unprecedented situation, now exacerbated by a global food crisis. Even with the current reduced ration, which covers nearly half of what families need every month, WFP is facing a funding gap for its lifesaving operations in Syria. This might lead to a setback in WFP’s efforts towards achieving zero hunger.
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