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Fuel shortage in Idlib threatening its vital sectors

Rajab refilling fuel near the Turkish-Syrian borders in Idlib Governorate - January 2019 (MEO)

Rajab refilling fuel near the Turkish-Syrian borders in Idlib Governorate - January 2019 (MEO)

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Fuel prices on the rise in the province of Idlib due to its scarcity, alarmingly threatening some of the most vital sectors in north western Syria.

Idlib health directorate released a statement, on 28 October 2019, dragging attention to the seriousness of the fuel crisis facing the region. The directorate noted that several hospitals and health facilities are at risk of closure due to the lack of fuel needed for activating the engine generators.

In an interview with Enab Baladi, Abu al-Walid Salmo, the general coordinator of “Sham humanitarian” foundation, said that lack of fuel led to the decline of emergency services provided by the organization and the health directorate.

Salmo pointed out that the paramedics are forced to take care of the most serious conditions and ignore what is below that, and that they are trying to get as much fuel as they can through their acquaintances at a high cost.

Although the Civil Defense kept its ambulatory services ongoing in bombardment areas, it limited its services and what it calls “cold conditions” in safer areas, according to the director of Idlib Civil Defense Directorate, Mustafa Haj Youssef.

In an interview with Enab Baladi, Haj Youssef said that the Civil Defense is following a contingency plan to define priorities and assure the availability of basic services in the area, such as search, rescue and emergency operations. Not to mention that the organization is prepared for the possible fuel oil’s outage or shortage in markets.

 Bakeries… complicated rising of bread prices

Mahmoud Shukaifa, manager of Sham al-Madina bakery in Idlib told Enab Baladi that the diesel barrel price increased from 135.9 USD to 291USD causing the rise of the 9-loaves bread bag that weighs 750 grams from 200 to 0.48 USD. Shukaifa pointed out that the rise of prices was not only a subject of the lack of fuel, but also coincided with the rising prices of flour and the drop of the Syrian pound.

 

The bakeries directorate distributes bakeries’ shares of fuel, according to Shukaifa, yet, it only meets their needs for two to three working days, as each bakery needs about 800 liters per day. As a result, workers find themselves forced to buy their needs from the free zone at prices determined by merchants.

Last resolves for obtaining warmth

Fuel has turned into the last heating method for the population of Idlib who has been overwhelmed by the long nine years of war, the constant bombing and high prices.

According to Quasai al-Khatib, a Syrian migrant, it is “impossible” to use the diesel heater at home, referring to the high cost of fuel, which coincided with a general increase in prices and the depreciation of the Syrian pound.

Among the limited options that al-Khatib has, Pyrene (extracted from remnants of squeezed olive that is one of the most famous crops in Idlib) is the best material he can use to stay warm during winter, especially that he is expecting a baby.

Al-Khatib said that Pyrene’s price is fine when compared to that of diesel, it is odorless, and it has no harmful emissions.

 

Internet… new prices and challenges

Abdulkarim al-Qadiri, manager of an internet network company in Idlib told Enab Baladi the increasing prices of fuel affected the price of internet packages and subscriptions, noting that internet towers run on solar power, meaning that it needs fuel sources to run in the winter.

Local internet network providers have set new prices for its packages in USD, in the beginning of December, as “it is the currency (USD) that the owners of the main internet lines use to get internet access and pay its bills”,” after they were dealing with customers in the Syrian pound. This has, thus, exacerbated the increase of prices as a result of the depreciation of the Syrian Pound recently

 

Reasons and alternatives

In a press conference, on 3 December, the Ministry of Economy of The Syrian Salvation Government (SG) said that the reason behind fuel crisis is the military operation waged by the Syrian National Army (SNA) along with the Turkish troops in north-eastern Syria on 9 October 2019, which blocked the way between the districts of Manbaj and A’zaz through which the fuel reaches Idlib.

The “Ibaa” news agency, affiliated to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), quoted the Minister of Economy, Muhammad Taha al-Ahmad, the “government” sought to secure alternative fuel from neighboring countries.

Safwan al-Ahmad, official of SG Media Office, told Enab Baladi that “Watad” company, the exclusive supplier of fuel in Idlib, is trying to secure diesel and gasoline through new importing methods, and is considering importing from Iraq in case enough fuel is not found.

The residents of Idlib demonstrated condemning the high prices of commodities that started to increase since the beginning of October 2019 under the pretext of lack of fuel. They also criticized the “de facto” authority represented by the SG and, describing it as “weak and unable” to provide the necessary services to the province.

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