Syrians desperately need help hit hard by Ukraine fallout

Umm Khaled barely leaves the tent where he lives in northwest Syria and says he doesn’t pay attention to the news. But she knows one reason why it’s getting harder and harder to feed herself and her children: Ukraine.

“Prices are going up, and this has been happening to us since the war in Ukraine started,” said the 40-year-old, who has lived in a camp for displaced people in Syria’s last rebel enclave for the past six years since they fled a government offensive.

Food prices around the world were already rising, but the war in Ukraine has accelerated the rise since the invasion of Russia began on Feb. 24. -ancient civil war.

The rebel enclave in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib is crammed with an estimated 4 million people, most of whom have fled from other parts of the country. Most depend on international aid to survive, for everything from food and shelter to medical care and education.

Because of rising prices, some aid agencies are reducing their food assistance. The biggest provider, the UN World Food Programme, started this week to reduce the size of the monthly rations it gives to 1.35 million people in the territory.

The crisis in Ukraine has also created a new group of refugees. European nations and the US rushed to help more than 5.5 million Ukrainians who had fled to neighboring countries, as well as more than 7 million displaced within Ukraine’s borders.

Aid agencies hope to bring the world’s attention back to Syria at a two-day donors’ conference for humanitarian aid to Syrians starting on Monday in Brussels, organized by the UN and the European Union. Funding also goes towards helping the 5.7 million Syrian refugees living in neighboring countries, mainly Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

Last year, the EU, the US and other nations pledged $6.4 billion to help Syrians and neighboring countries hosting refugees. But that fell far short of the $10 billion the UN had sought – and the impact was felt on the ground. In Idlib, 10 of its 50 medical centers lost funding in 2022, forcing them to drastically reduce services, Amnesty International said in a report released on Thursday.

Across Syria, people have been forced to eat less, the Norwegian Refugee Council said. The group surveyed several hundred families across the country and found that 87% were skipping meals to meet other living costs.

“While the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine continues to demand global attention, donors and governments meeting in Brussels must not forget their commitment to Syria,” the NRC’s Middle East Regional Director Carsten Hansen said in a report on Thursday.

The UN children’s agency UNICEF said more than 6.5 million children in Syria are in need of assistance, calling it the highest recorded since the start of the conflict. He said that since 2011, more than 13,000 children have been confirmed dead or injured.

Meanwhile, UNICEF said funding for humanitarian operations in Syria is rapidly decreasing, saying it has received less than half of its funding needs for this year. “We urgently need nearly $20 million for cross-border operations” in Syria, the agency said in a statement.

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Umm Khaled is among those who rely on food aid. With her relief rations reduced, she went into even more debt to feed her family.

Her husband and eldest son were killed in a Syrian government airstrike on her hometown of Aleppo in 2016. Soon after, she escaped with her three surviving children to the rebel enclave in Idlib province. Since then, they have lived in a camp with other displaced people on the outskirts of the town of Atmeh, close to the Turkish border.

His family lives on two meals a day – a small breakfast and a main meal in the late afternoon that serves as lunch and dinner. Her only income is harvesting olives for a few weeks a year, making 20 Turkish Lira ($1.35) a day.

“We used to get a lot of rice, bulgur, lentils and so on. Now they keep reducing,” she said by phone from the camp. She spoke on the condition that her full name not be released, fearing repercussions. She lives with her two daughters, aged 6 and 16, and her 12-year-old son, who suffered head and arm injuries in the attack that killed his brother and father.

The price of essential foods in northwest Syria has already increased by between 22% and 67% since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, according to aid group Mercy Corps. There were also shortages of sunflower oil, sugar and flour.

Mercy Corps provides cash assistance to displaced Syrians to buy food and other necessities and says it has no plans to reduce the amount.

“Even before the war in Ukraine, bread was already becoming increasingly inaccessible,” said Mercy Corps Syria director Kieren Barnes. The vast majority of wheat brought to northwest Syria is of Ukrainian origin, and the territory does not produce enough wheat for its own needs.

“The world is witnessing a year of catastrophic famine with a huge gap between the resources and needs of millions of people around the world,” said Abeer Etefa, spokesperson for WFP.

In many of its operations around the world, PAM is reducing the size of the rations it provides, she said. Starting this month in northwest Syria, provisions will be reduced to 1,177 calories a day from 1,340. The food basket will continue to supply a mix of commodities including wheat flour, rice, chickpeas, lentils, bulgur wheat, sugar and oil.

Rising prices have increased the cost of WFP food assistance by 51% since 2019 and that cost is likely to increase further as the impact of the Ukraine crisis is felt, Etefa said.

At the beginning of the year, before the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine, a 29% increase in costs led the Czech aid agency People in Need to stop providing food packages for food stamps. The vouchers, worth $60, buy less food than the group’s target level, but the group had to take a step to “maximize its food assistance coverage to the most vulnerable,” a spokesperson told The Associated. pressure

As the world turns to other conflicts, “Syria is on the verge of becoming another forgotten crisis,” warned the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Joyce Msuya, in late April.

In northwest Syria, “a staggering 4.1 million people” are in need of humanitarian aid, Msuya said — not just food, but medicine, blankets, school supplies and shelter. She said nearly a million people in the territory, mostly women and children, live in tents, “half of which are beyond their normal life expectancy.”

Many fear the situation will only worsen in July because Russia could force international aid to the northwest to be delivered through parts of Syria under the control of its ally, President Bashar Assad.

Currently, aid enters the Idlib enclave directly from Turkey through a single border crossing, Bab al-Hawa. The UN mandate allowing deliveries through Bab al-Hawa expires on July 9, and Russia has hinted that it will veto a Security Council resolution renewing the mandate.

A Russian veto would effectively hand Assad over control over the flow of aid to the opposition enclave, and the US and EU had previously warned that they would stop funding in that case.

The result will be a serious humanitarian crisis, likely triggering a new flood of Syrian migrants in Turkey and Europe, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs warned in a report.

Umm Khaled said he has no choice but to put up with their deteriorating living conditions.

“They keep reducing our food basket,” she said. “May God protect us if they cut through.”

See More information:

Countries pledge to increase food security amid war in Ukraine

Nearly 25 million tonnes of grain trapped in Ukraine, says UN food agency

War in Ukraine likely to worsen world hunger: UN report

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