Russian veto on Syria border aid could spell disaster for Idlib | News

Idlib, Syria – In Syria, famine threatens again.

The country, now in its 11th year after the war, was earlier designated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (WFP) in early June as one of the 20 “Famine Hotspots” in the world. (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP).

The causes are local and international, but as a result, organizations are warning that “severe famine” will pervade the country, unless serious humanitarian action is taken.

In the opposition organization Idlib Provincein Northwestern Syria, the situation is extremely dangerous, as a direct result of the humanitarian conditions faced by people living in densely populated areas, many of whom are displaced and live in camps. .

Bread is more expensive than ever, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine severely limiting grain exports from the country, on which Syria relies heavily.

In turn, imported flour has increased its price last year from $300 to $580 a ton, according to local traders.

However, things could get worse.

Despite pleas from United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Russia can use its veto in the UN Security Council and block an extension mechanism allowing aid to pass through Bab al-Hawa, the only cross-border passage that allows aid to enter opposition-held territory without first entering Syrian government-controlled territory.

That means the government will squeeze even harder on opposition regions – such as Idlib – and raise prices even further.

A vote at the Security Council is scheduled for July 10.

Grain production fell

UN aid passing through Bab al-Hawa is the main source of free bread for thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in camps.

Mark Cutts, the UN’s deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, told Al Jazeera: “The humanitarian crisis in Syria is getting bigger and bigger. “More people in Syria are in need of humanitarian aid than ever before.”

Locally, grain production has also declined since 2020 as the opposition loses territory to the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Farming is also limited to plains near the border with government troops, who residents say often hit farmland with artillery and rockets, destroying crops.

In particular, this year, farmers complained about significantly low grain yields.

Among them is Ahmed Jarjanazi, a 53-year-old who lives with his family in the Atmeh IDP camp, near the Syria-Turkey border.

“Grain production this year is very low compared to previous years, yield per acre [0.4 hectare] this year it was between 100 and 300kg, while last year it was between 500 and 800kg,” Jarjanazi told Al Jazeera.

A truck loaded with sacks of grain in the middle of a wheat field
Idlib’s wheat fields are often the target of Syrian government troops [Ali Haj Suleiman/Al Jazeera]

Jarjanazi added that the cost of planting and harvesting this year has doubled compared to last year, due to higher fertilizer and fuel prices, another consequence of the pandemic. war in Ukraine.

Effects of drought

According to Anas al-Rahmoun, a Syrian agricultural engineer, the reason for this year’s low harvest is the climate, with the winter onwards being significantly drier than usual.

“The government and international organizations should further encourage and support grain production, by providing what is needed,” al-Rahmoun told Al Jazeera. “[They] could support research centers in northwestern Syria to produce grains that can survive the climates of the region, making them more drought tolerant and able to grow outside of the plains . “

Al-Rahmoun added that grain production is related to rainfall in terms of quantity and distribution.

This winter has seen intermittent rains but then dry spells for longer periods, which affects grain production, especially in April when rainfall stops for a significant part. of the cultivation process.

All these reasons make the northwest of Syria, home to at least 4 million people, of which 2.7 million are internally displaced – on the brink of real famine.

The United Nations says 90 percent of Syrians are currently living below the poverty line, and according to WFP estimates, three in five people in Syria are food insecure.

Mohammad Hallaj, head of the Coordination Group for Syria Response told Al Jazeera that securing bread is currently a difficult issue for the average Syrian in the region; with an average of three bags of bread per family per day, costing 15 Turkish lira ($0.86) a day and 450 Turkish lira ($26) a month.

However, a local worker can expect to bring in only a monthly income of 1000 Turkish liras ($58) and leave little money to spend on other necessities.

Those with no income have an even greater struggle.

In the camps, many people live off of the free bread provided by humanitarian organizations.

Some of them have has stopped distributing bread due to high production costs.

“Disrupting imports of flour, the main ingredient for bread… will lead to unbelievable food security problems, and will lead to unprecedented levels of hunger,” Hallaj said. “We are on the brink of famine in the coming period, the famine will come gradually as the price of bread increases.”

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