Community based initiatives to fight bread crisis in al-Bab
Enab Baladi- Assim al-Mulhem
Abdel Rahman al-Khalid, a refugee who lives in al-Bab city and works in the construction field, found his calling after a long exhausting trip in extreme heat to buy his family’s daily needs of food. Yet, his joy did not last long, when he found out that a bundle of bread costs 500 Syrian pounds (USD 0.18). Much to his surprise, he forgot the rest of his shopping list.
Abdel Rahman’s family is composed of eight people who need five bundles of bread on a daily basis; however, they receive only two from the allocations of subsidized bread by the city’s local council. In his talk to Enab Baladi Abdel Rahman said that the council set 200 Syrian pounds (USD 0.074) as a selling price for single a bundle of bread.
He proceeded by saying “there are few bread bundles, insufficient for everyone,” he added “even these bundles are not the same size anymore”. Such conditions force Abdel Rahman to buy bread from “the free market” that it to say from authorized distributors by the local council. However, some of them, the “corrupted” ones, sell bread to stand owners at higher prices that could amount sometimes to 500 Syrian pounds (USD 0.18).
The same is the case for Thaer al-Haj Muhammad, a resident in the city who works as upholster. Thaer described his living conditions to Enab Baladi by saying that workers today find themselves between two choices; either spend their daily wages on bread without food or the opposite.
As for Mahmoud al-Hamoud, who was displaced from Deir Ezzor, he substituted the regular bread with tandoor one, despite its high cost. For Mahmoud, tandoor bread is almost the same price as bread sold on stands; however, it is more available and healthier.
Huge losses to subsidize bread
The director of bakeries in the local council of al-Bab city, Mustapha al-sheikh Muhammad Ali, told Enab Baladi, that the council supports more than 15 ovens, 11 of them inside the city, while another ten in its countryside. In addition to seven private ovens.
Al-sheikh added that the amount produced so far has exceeded 42 tons and 500 kilograms, at an average of 810 thousand and 600 bundles of bread, where each bundle weights 600 grams. He added that one bundle of bread costs the council 561 Syrian pounds (USD 0.20), while it sold to the authorized distributors at price of 190 Syrian pounds (USD 0.07) with a profit margin of ten pounds, so citizens could buy it at a cost of 200 Syrian pounds (USD 0.074).
Al-sheikh talked about the council losses, which are estimated at 371 Syrian pounds (USD 0.13) for each bundles of bread, at a daily loss rate of ten thousand and 800 dollars in total.
On 11 of this month, the local council of al-Bab city has announced in a statement on its official page on “Facebook”, adopting the Turkish lira as a currency while increasing the weight of bundles from 600 to 800 grams. These changes attempt to contain the crisis caused by the instability of the Syrian pound.
Director of supply in the council, Samer al-Muhammad, told Enab Baladi that they suspended two authorized distributors and withdrew their licenses after complaints against them. the council found out that they do not sell bread for people directly, but instead sell it instead to grocery shops and stands at a higher price.
Community based initiatives to support the poor
On 10 of the current month, a number of activists in al-Bab city have launched a campaign under the title of “a thousand bundles of bread per day” to support the poor through providing free bread.
The campaign’s supervisor, Ahmed Kerman, confirmed to Enab Baladi, that the campaign’s team is working to collect donations through centers in al-Bab and Turkey as well as buying bread from authorized distributors and give it later to families in need in accordance with the number of individuals in each family.
During the current month, the amount of donations has reached 559 thousand Syrian pounds (USD 207) and about four thousand and 800 Turkish lira (USD 700). Meantime, two thousand and 950 bundles of bread have been distributed for the benefit of 794 families.
According to Kerman, many of the donations have been conducted by children who gave all their savings, in addition to contributions by money transfer offices which did not charge us on remittances coming from Turkey.
Kerman also tackled the issue of how the campaign helped into fighting monopolization of some authorized distributors who used to sell bread to grocery shops and stands. He added that bread now is directly sold to people. Kerman also pointed out that this campaign will not be the last, while many others have preceded it to support internally displaced persons (IDPs) and orphans.
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