Conflicts, displacements & limited livelihood opportunities: Here’s what FAO report says about Syria’s acute food insecurity

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In the latest publication titled ‘Syrian Arab Republic: Situation Report’, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said that the crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic has entered its tenth year, and the humanitarian needs continue to be extraordinarily high.

“Conflict, displacement, returns and the destruction of agricultural infrastructure have severely affected Syrians livelihoods and food security,” the report said.

The current economic crisis is worsening the situation, and the poverty rate is increasing.

According to the report, the number of food-insecure people rose dramatically from 7.9 million in January to 9.3 million in June and an additional 1.9 million people are at risk of food insecurity.

The report added that the impact of the crisis has become worse due to a combination of factors, including the movement and transportation restrictions, implemented by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Owing to lack of livelihood opportunities and high food prices, the number of food-insecure people is likely to increase in 2020.

Although there remains a lack of functional agricultural infrastructure, the 2020 cereal production projection is favorable. The wheat production forecast for 2020 is 2.4 million tonnes, up from 2.2 million tonnes in 2019, and Barley production is projected to be high in 2020, with a forecast of 2.3 million tonnes.

“The consequences of COVID-19 control measures are impacting the agriculture sector, reducing accessibility to markets and leading to higher prices for inputs, including seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, fuel and labor. Increasing input and production costs combined with decreasing purchasing power is shrinking farmer’s profits. This may result in smallholders dropping out of agricultural production if the situation, which is constantly changing, is not addressed rapidly,” the report added.

The FAO publication recognised livestock as the most affected sector by the COVID-19 control measures as livestock keepers cannot afford to buy the required standard quantities of cattle feed, which will eventually affect productivity. Sheep and goat keepers face limited access to grazing lands as well as high feed prices.

In the poultry sector, producers of broilers and eggs are experiencing challenges in securing inputs, consequently creating massive fluctuations in the prices of broilers and eggs.

On the other hand, food processors are also facing higher costs of raw materials, transportation, fuel and skilled labor. As a result, processors have been forced to the raise prices of their final food products by 20 per cent on average.

As per the report’s findings, consumers are also constrained by their limited purchasing power. In markets, consumers are buying fewer vegetables and fruit, often buying items by the piece rather than in bulk, and lamb meat has become an expensive luxury. To overcome the difficulties in meeting food needs, purchasing food on credit is becoming more prevalent.

FAO’s response so far:

• 345,294 people (57,549 households) directly assisted

• Provided animal feed to 4,200 households in order to increase production and protect livestock assets.

• Distributed vegetable seeds to 8,800 households

• Established nurseries to increase the availability of vegetables in local communities and improve the nutrition of vulnerable households.

• Vaccinated livestock belonging to 41,644 households against PPR to improve animal health and increase livestock productivity.

• Improved access to water to over 840 households through infrastructure rehabilitation and installation of alternative energy sources.

• Increased availability of improved seed to farmers through multiplication of early generation seed, directly benefiting 120 households.

• Trained more than 1,900 people representing their households on agricultural technical subjects and entrepreneurship, marketing and project management