The head of the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said on Monday that millions of Syrians are facing food shortages, and half of the country’s population goes to bed hungry. WFP chief David Beasley said people in both opposition-controlled areas and government-controlled areas are in urgent need.
The shortages are due to many factors, including the nine-year war, US sanctions on Syria, and the coronavirus pandemic. “We’ve got people on the brink of starvation now, and they can’t wait. People will die, and people are dying as we speak,” Beasley said.
Food prices in Syria are the highest they have been since the war started in 2011. The Syrian currency recently collapsed mainly due to new US sanctions, which took effect two weeks ago. Syria was already under heavy US sanctions, but the new measures can target anyone, regardless of nationality, who invests in the country. The new sanctions discourage Syria’s neighbors, like Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, from helping the reconstruction effort.
Beasley said borders with Turkey and Lebanon must be open to facilitate aid deliveries to opposition-controlled parts of Syria and government-controlled areas, which is where the majority of Syrians live.
Another group of aid organizations released a statement on Monday on Syria that echoed Beasley’s comments. “A staggering 9.3 million Syrians are now going to sleep hungry and more than another 2 million are at risk of a similar fate,” aid groups Oxfam, Humanity & Inclusion, CARE International, World Vision International, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, and the Norwegian Refugee Council said in a joint statement.
The statements come ahead of a donor conference that will take place on Tuesday, where aid groups will work to secure more funding. The WFP has already made cuts to Syria and other war-torn countries, including Yemen.