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UN warns of food crisis in Syria as aid is cut

UN figures have warned of an increasing of the crisis in light of a potential drought in Syria.

A shortage of funding from donors is leading the United Nations' World Food Programme to cut the size of its food parcels by a fifth.

The WFP's operation with Syria is the largest it has ever conducted at a cost of more than $40 million a week. Last month they managed to reach 4.2 million people out of a target of 4.1 million, but donor countries have only managed to deliver 22% of the $2.3 billion sought for the aid programme and the organisation is risking a spending squeeze as a result.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres warned the crisis in the country was getting out of hand. “We know that this tragedy, together with the tragedy of the people displaced inside the country, 6.5m, now shows that almost half of the Syrian population is displaced.”

A potential drought in the country could further exacerbate the crisis. Syria's northwest has received less than half of the average rainfall since September and if the region remains dry in the lead up to the wheat harvest, this could increase the country's reliance on food exports.

 “A drought could put the lives of millions more people at risk,” said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for WFP.

Syria's neighbours are currently struggling to feed an influx of refugees from the country's civil conflict. The number of refugees in Lebanon now makes up around 25% of the population and the undercutting of Lebanese workers by Syrians who are willing to work for less money is destabilising the country's economy. So far, few countries outside the Middle East have been willing to take in Syrian refugees in large numbers.