ARCHIVE – A man stands with his children in the camp where they live. Photo: Anas Alkahrboutli / dpa / dpa
The UN agricultural organization FAO expects a “significantly lower” harvest of wheat, the most important staple food, this season compared to the previous year, as the FAO representative in Syria, Michael Robson, told the German press agency.
Welthungerhilfe warned that the number of people in need who are dependent on humanitarian aid will increase dramatically. “The hunger situation of the people in Syria is already absolutely catastrophic,” said Syria coordinator Konstantin Witschel.
The FAO has not yet given exact figures on the harvest. A representative of the Kurdish self-government in northeast Syria said he expected the wheat harvest there to collapse by around 45 percent. This Kurdish-controlled region is considered the “bread basket” of Syria.
Civil war has been raging in the country for ten years. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed and around twelve million were displaced, around half of them within the country. The country is divided into areas under government, rebel and Kurdish control.
Syria has also been suffering from a severe economic crisis since 2019. Many people can no longer afford staple foods. Again and again there are reports of long queues at gas stations and bakeries with subsidized bread. According to the World Food Program WFP, more than twelve million Syrians, or almost 60 percent of the population, do not have enough to eat. The number of starving and acutely malnourished children is increasing.
Witschel said that Welthungerhilfe is looking at the harvest with great concern. “The people no longer have any reserves and must not be left alone with this drought,” he demanded. “Food will become even scarcer and the prices for bread, vegetables and fruits will continue to rise.” Syria’s government specifically refuses humanitarian aid and uses hunger as a weapon.
According to the FAO, the rain started late this season and ended as early as mid-April. It was 30 to 80 percent below the long-term average. At the same time, the temperatures have risen, which affects the quality of the harvest. The FAO said that due to a lack of fuel, fields could not have been irrigated. The water level of the Euphrates has also fallen to a critical level. Syria’s Kurds accuse Turkey of holding back water in their dams. Ankara rejects that.
The availability of bread in areas of the government will depend on their ability to import wheat, said Syria expert Sam Heller. However, the currency reserves have melted due to the depreciation of the currency. According to the Syrian government, Syria’s ally Russia wants to deliver a million tons of wheat to them this year. Western states have imposed sanctions on Damascus.
The next groundbreaking decision for the humanitarian situation in Syria will be made at the beginning of July: The UN Security Council will then have to vote on the final border crossing through which UN aid can also be brought into parts of Syria that are not controlled by the government. Observers fear that Russia could close this too with a veto. Then UN aid for rebel areas and the Kurdish areas should only go through Syria’s government. (SDA)