Friday, January 27, 2023

UN warns of record rates of hunger in Syria

Crisis put 2.9m at risk of sliding into hunger while another 12m are uncertain of their next meal, says WFP

A boy carries food aid given by the UNs World Food Programme in Raqqa, Syria. — Reuters/File
A boy carries food aid given by the UN's World Food Programme in Raqqa, Syria. — Reuters/File

BEIRUT: The World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Friday that hunger rates in Syria have soared to record highs after more than a decade of devastating conflict.

A brutal war that triggered years of economic crisis and damaged vital infrastructure has put 2.9 million at risk of sliding into hunger, while another 12 million do not know where their next meal is coming from, the UN agency said.

"Hunger soars to a 12-year high in Syria," as 70% of the population might soon be "unable to put food on the table for their families," the statement said.

"Syria now has the sixth highest number of food insecure people in the world," the WFP added, with food prices increasing nearly 12-fold in three years.

Child and maternal malnutrition are also "increasing at a speed never seen before," in more than a decade of war.

If the international community does not step up to help Syrians, it risks facing "another wave of mass migration," said WFP executive director David Beasley during a visit to Syria this week.

"Is that what the international community wants?" he asked, urging donor countries to redouble efforts to "avert this looming catastrophe".

The UN estimates 90 per cent of the 18 million people in Syria are living in poverty, with the economy hit by conflict, drought, cholera and the Covid pandemic as well as the fallout from the financial crash in neighbouring Lebanon.

The conflict in Syria started with the brutal repression of peaceful protests and escalated to pull in foreign powers and global jihadists.

About half a million people have been killed, and the conflict has forced around half of the country's pre-war population from their homes.