Hunger soars to 12-year high in Syria, WFP chief calls for urgent action
DAMASCUS – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director, David Beasley, arrived in Syria this week and appealed to the world to invest in the Syrian people and communities to get them on their feet and off food assistance.
Today, following 12 years of conflict, an economy crippled by runaway inflation, a currency that has collapsed to a record low and soaring food prices, 12 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from. Another 2.9 million people are at risk of sliding into hunger, meaning that 70% of the population may soon be unable to put food on the table for their families.
“If we don’t address this humanitarian crisis in Syria, things are going to get worse than we can possibly imagine,” said Beasley from Damascus. “Another wave of mass migration like the one that swept across Europe in 2015 – is that what the international community wants? If not, we must urgently seize this opportunity to avert the looming catastrophe and work together to bring peace and stability to the Syrian people.”
Beasley, who has visited Syria five times before, went to Al Nashabiyah subdistrict in Duma in East Ghouta, Rural Damascus. East Ghouta was known as the breadbasket for Damascus, as well as for its fruit orchards and export-quality produce. The area was heavily bombarded between 2013 and 2018 and its residents were displaced. During this period, WFP was only able to reach the area through three interagency convoys.
Since then, WFP has started to help farmers and the community by fixing some of the irrigation canals that were destroyed during the conflict to help them grow wheat and other food so that they can feed themselves and their families.
“WFP is working to irrigate nearly 28,000 hectares of land across the country, enough to feed 620,000 people here. That means less hunger, more economic opportunity, and a stronger local economy. The US$ 14 million investment will save US$50 million per year in humanitarian assistance, and create nearly 90,000 jobs,” Beasley added. “In a nation where around 85% of WFP’s spend goes on humanitarian food assistance, that’s a huge saving. But we need to scale up these investments to boost the resilience of other food-insecure communities across Syria.”
Beasley heard first hand from farmers who have started to grow food after WFP helped restore the irrigation systems. They appealed to him for help to get more water so they can jump-start the agriculture work in the area again and produce food for their villages and surrounding areas.
Food prices have increased nearly twelve-fold over the last three years. Syria now has the sixth highest number of food insecure people in the world, with 2.5 million people who are severely food insecure, and their lives are at risk without food assistance. Child and maternal malnutrition are increasing at a speed never seen before – not even during over a decade of war.
WFP is providing monthly assistance for nearly seven million people. This includes food ration distributions, prevention and treatment of acute malnutrition, school meals, cash-based transfers and support for livelihoods, resilience, and social safety nets. The generosity of donors has been key to providing life-saving food assistance for millions of people whose lives have been torn apart by more than a decade of conflict and displacement.
# # #
The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.
Follow us on Twitter @wfp_media @wfp_MENA