Syria risks another wave of migration, UN food agency warns

Jun 26, 2020

The humanitarian situation in Syria is set to worsen unless more international aid is able to reach the population, the United Nations food agency chief told the Associated Press ahead of an international donor conference next week. 

World Food Program (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley told the AP an increasing number of Syrians, at least one million, are “literally on the brink of starvation.” A further 9.3 million people go to bed hungry. 

Next week in Brussels, the European Union will host a virtual conference of global leaders in hopes of finding solutions to Syria’s ongoing war and raising billions in much-needed aid. The conference comes as Syria’s currency is crashing to historic lows and inflation is skyrocketing, dealing a further blow to the 83 percent of the population who already live below the poverty line. 

The WFP’s Syria program, which distributes emergency food assistance to families, faces a $200 million shortfall this year. Without additional support, Syrians “are going to do what it takes to feed their children, which means they will migrate,” Beasley said, comparing the situation to the refugee crisis of 2015. 

The UN estimates more than 5.6 million people have fled Syria since the war began in 2011. Some 6.6 people remain displaced within the country. 

Hunger is most acute in Idlib province, a rebel-held enclave located in Syria’s northwest. A Russia-backed government offensive on the region in December sent more than one million people fleeing their homes. Many found refuge in camps along the closed Turkish border and in abandoned buildings.  

Now that President Bashar al-Assad has emerged with most of the country in his grip after nine years of war, donor countries are now grappling with whether to provide him much-needed reconstruction assistance. Assad’s government puts the costs of rebuilding the country at $400 billion, while outside analysts say the price tag could be as high as $1 trillion.

The long-awaited Caesar Act sanctions could stand in the way of any rebuilding effort. Under the law, which took effect earlier this month, the US can sanction anyone — foreign or Syrian —who does business with Damascus in the construction sector. 

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