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University of Balamand > News > Archive > On the Syrian Food Crisis

Matthew Hollingworth on the Syrian Food Crisis

The Department of Political Science and International Affairs ​recently hosted Matthew Hollingworth, representative of the World Food Program in Syria, to speak about war and hunger in the war-torn country.

Speaking in the context of the Syrian crisis, which began in 2011, Mr. Hollingworth described the challenges affecting the distribution of emergency food assistance in the country. For instance, the World Food Program is targeting 4.25 million people with food assistance every month inside Syria while 2 million Syria refugees are being assisted in neighboring countries.

Inside Syria, food assistance is distributed by partners to vulnerable displaced people or poor resident communities while in neighboring countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, WFP is providing E-Vouchers. In Syria, said Mr. Hollingworth, it is estimated that up to 4.8 million people live in hard-to-reach areas where access is significantly disrupted and as such are not receiving sustained and adequate levels of vital humanitarian assistance.

Mr. Hollingworth added that an estimated 12.2 million people inside Syria are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance. Of these, 9 million are in need of food assistance of which 6.8 million are in critical need.

The conflict has resulted in a severe deterioration of the economic situation, affecting all economic sectors. Among these, the agricultural sector suffered major setbacks as a result of damaged infrastructure, lack of inputs (fuel, fertilizers) and inability of farmers to attend their crop-fields. Overall losses in this sector are estimated at $200 billion, said Mr. Hollingworth. This is significantly impacting the food security of conflict-affected populations which are now suffering from acute food needs and worsening malnutrition levels.

Moreover, Mr. Hollingworth asserted that the rise in the food prices is also a result of the economic deterioration the country is facing. Syrians are now increasingly relying on external assistance and relief materials to cover needs.
As such, the “Syrian crisis” is no longer a result of the conflict but it has become a part of it because of the reduction and degradation in food production and the fluctuation in food prices.

While there continues to be some obstacles standing in the way of delivering food aid to Syria, he pointed out that the situation has changed after the adoption of the Security Council resolution, which allowed humanitarian deliveries into Syria through the Jordanian and Turkish border without the need to request approval from the Syrian government. Since the passing of the resolution in July 2014, over 1 million people living in opposition-held areas of Aleppo, Dar’a, Quneitra, Idleb and Hama received food assistance at least once.

The World Food Program, said Mr. Hollingworth, seeks to fight hunger and provide food to people, through projects that uses food as a means to disseminate knowledge, and to strengthen the capacity of the community to be stronger. ​​​​
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