An unprecedented 9.3 million Syrians don't know where their next meal is coming from and millions are being driven deeper into poverty as the prices of basic foods have spiralled to record levels, the United Nations World Food Programme said Friday in a statement.
The number of Syrians facing hunger has jumped 1.4 million in the last six months alone as a devastating combination of an economic standstill, neighbouring Lebanon's economic meltdown and COVID-19 lockdown measures have hiked food prices by over 200% in under a year, WFP said.
Food prices are 20 times higher than their pre-crisis levels, with the price of a basic food basket that cost 4,000 Syrian Pounds before the nine-year-old war now costing 76,000 Syrian Pounds. Families have been forced to adopt desperate measures from cutting meals and reducing portions to selling assets and falling further into debt.
“Families in Syria have already been through more than they can handle, they have exhausted their savings and often fled their homes and now face a downward spiral into poverty and hunger,” said WFP Country Director in Syria Corinne Fleischer. “They are running out of options.”
Each month WFP provides food assistance to 4.8 million vulnerable people across all 14 governates of Syria and helps improve nutrition for mothers and young children as well as providing school meals and snacks to students and helping families to restore their livelihoods.
“Food from WFP is a life-line for families who have lost everything; their homes, their jobs and the ability to feed their families,” said Fleischer.
“We are grateful to our donors in Syria, but the needs have never been greater, and we cannot let the Syrian people down now."
WFP urgently requires US$200 million to continue to provide food assistance in Syria until the end of this year. Unless new funding is available by August, WFP will be forced by October to drastically cut rations as well as the number of people it supplies with food.
WFP's statement comes ahead of an international donor conference on Syria taking place in Brussels on Tuesday.