Soaring prices in Idlib exacerbate hunger crisis

A Syrian boy selling green almonds on his cart in the main market of Idlib city - 7 April 2020 (Enab Baladi)

A Syrian boy selling green almonds on his cart in the main market of Idlib city - 7 April 2020 (Enab Baladi)

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Commodity prices in the northwestern Idlib region are witnessing rapid rises this March, with the start of the holy month of Ramadan, which is reflected in a direct threat to families with food insecurity, malnutrition, and deteriorating health conditions, local activists say.

Food security is achieved at the individual and household levels when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

Mohammed Mansour, 31, a day laborer in the construction field who works “day and night” in order for his family to survive these harsh living conditions, is still far from achieving food security, as is the case with the majority of families in northwest Syria.

12 hours a day for 3 dollars

Mansour works about 12 hours a day to collect an amount close to 100 US dollars per month, but the construction worker’s wallet empties when the month approaches the middle of the month, especially during the cold winter days amid high prices of heating materials.

Mansour receives about three dollars a day, while most of the prices of basic foodstuffs are rising in the city, without any solutions to end this living crisis by the Syrian Salvation Government (SSG), the local de facto authority governing the region, or by food aid delivery organizations.

Many challenges face northern Syria in achieving food security for the population, such as faltering policies, poverty, and obstacles to accessing agricultural production that meets the needs of the market in general.

Not to mention the lack of demand for labor made labor wages reach the lowest levels in the region, which made them not commensurate with the prices of basic staples in the market and thus caused families to be unable to provide for basic needs.

According to research studies, the effects of the problem widen more with the expansion of its time scale, which in turn is associated with the persistence of poverty and low income, with an economic collapse that portends long-term food insecurity, with limited availability of sufficient and nutritionally safe food, or limited ability to obtain foodstuffs in socially reasonable ways.

The humanitarian REACH initiative says the day laborer in Idlib needs 65 days to earn the monthly cost in order to secure basic necessities.

At least 85 percent of families in northwestern Syria depend for their material income on daily wages, and 94 percent of families suffer from the inability to purchase basic needs.

According to the reports of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), about 2.7 million displaced people are in need of humanitarian assistance out of a total population of four million in northwest Syria.

High prices affect children’s health

The faces of children in the Idlib region are always yellow and pale from malnutrition, as they often need vitamins that are not available or expensive, which threatens their physical structure and leaves traces that will not go away in the future, according to local child protection workers.

Sanaa al-Hassan, 35, works as a volunteer in the field of child protection and participates in food organizations, adds to Enab Baladi that a supportive environment must be created to implement plans in the areas of food and nutritional health interventions for mothers, infants, and children.

According to al-Hassan, this body must be a high and immediate priority in order to confront this problem, in addition to monitoring and evaluating the implementation of these plans and programs.

Food security is based on four dimensions identified by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, which are the availability, access, use, and stability of food.

Complex factors

Economic experts believe that there are no immediate and viable solutions to this existing danger facing the population in the city of Idlib.

The expert, Munther al-Mousa, enumerated for Enab Baladi the most important reasons for the high prices in Idlib, like the grinding conflict that has been going on for more than a decade and the lack of a political solution to spare Syrians the high rate of hunger in their cities.

In addition to the absence of effective monitoring means to protect consumers in Idlib and the absence of a government agency that supports basic commodities, which play a role in exacerbating this problem, according to al-Mousa.

The unstable social, political, and security environment prevents the achievement of economic and living development and causes a shortage of natural resources, which weakens the production and export base.

It also weakens the task of human competencies in sifting and dismantling the problem to treat it, which mainly affects food security in a situation similar to the case of the Idlib region.

 

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