Record 12.4mn people food insecure in war-torn Syria, WFP warns

Record 12.4mn people food insecure in war-torn Syria, WFP warns
The World Food Programme on Saturday warned a record 12.4 million people are food insecure in Syria, where fresh efforts to revive a peace process have so far failed.
3 min read
13 February, 2021
Millions are food insecure in war-torn Syria [Getty]
A record 12.4 million people in war-torn Syria are struggling to find enough food to eat, the UN food agency has said, in an increase it described on Saturday as "alarming".

The figure means "60 percent of the Syrian population are now food insecure", the World Food Programme said, based on results of a nationwide assessment in late 2020.

It marks a sharp increase from 9.3 million people who were food insecure in May last year.

"More Syrians are slipping deeper into hunger, poverty and food insecurity than ever before," WFP spokeswoman Jessica Lawson told AFP.

"It is alarming that a basic meal is now beyond the reach of the majority of families."

Syria's almost ten-year-old war has ravaged the economy and sent inflation soaring across the country.

In early 2021, food prices nationwide were 33 times higher than the five-year pre-war average, WFP says.

A dire financial crisis in neighbouring Lebanon that has slowed dollar inflows and lockdowns to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic have further increased economic woes.

"The economic situation in Syria is putting immense pressure on families who have nothing left after years of conflict and many depend entirely on humanitarian assistance to survive," Lawson said.

The Syrian conflict has killed more than 387,000 people and displaced millions more from their homes since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Endless rounds of UN-backed peace talks have failed to stem the bloodshed and in recent years have been largely overtaken by parallel negotiations led by Russia and Turkey.

Join declaration fails

On Tuesday, the UN Security Council failed to agree on a joint declaration on war-torn Syria, capping a day of negotiations in which the organisation's special envoy to the country called to jump-start the deadlocked peace process.

Russia, Syria's main ally, repeatedly blocked negotiations on the matter, diplomats said, although Moscow did not respond to a request for comment as to why.

"The current divisions in the international community need to be bridged," Geir Pedersen, the UN special envoy for Syria, told journalists earlier in the day following a Security Council videoconference.

Read more: Breaking the cycle of trauma and illness among Syrian refugees

Pedersen said that without "constructive international diplomacy" on Syria, it was unlikely that "any track -- constitutional track or any other -- will really move forward."

The council's monthly meeting on Syria is usually public, but officials kept the session private after a meeting of the Syrian Constitutional Committee in Geneva last month ended with no progress.

The committee was created in 2019 to modify Syria's 2012 constitution, which directs the organisation of elections under UN supervision.

Read also: Russia 'considering' Syrian military overhaul with defected general, Manaf Tlass, as head

"Session five of the Constitutional Committee was a missed opportunity and disappointment," Pedersen said of the January meeting, which included the Syrian regime, the opposition and civil society.

"There is a lack of trust and confidence and a lack of will to compromise -- and a lack of political space to compromise too," he added.

Diplomats told AFP that Western powers were unanimous during the Tuesday's meeting in decrying the "failure" of the political process.

One representative accused the constitutional committee of having achieved nothing, and blamed the Syrian regime for "delay tactics."

Agencies contributed to this report.

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