Aid rations in decrease in Daraa; needy people sell food baskets
Daraa – Halim Muhammad
After waiting for two months, Hiam, 33, was surprised that the contents of the food ration of her five-family members were reduced by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) in the southern governorate of Daraa.
Despite the long periods of delivery of the basket, which is provided by the World Food Programme (WFP), it lessens the burden of purchasing some basic foodstuffs, such as oil, sugar, and flour.
The reduction was not the first, as the Red Crescent in Daraa reduced the components of the food basket in late March, which are distributed in the governorate within a period of two to three months.
The weight of sugar distributed was also reduced from 5 kg to 1 kg, and rice from 10 kg to 5 kg, and chickpeas were excluded from the components of the food basket that was distributed in the towns of Tafas and Daraa al-Balad.
Hiam, who has reserved her full name for security reasons, said that the previous distribution of the food basket had witnessed a reduction in the amount of sugar allocated and that the rice came in poor quality, forcing her to replace it with other types after selling it, and paying the difference to buy rice from the local market.
Hiam’s reason for replacing the rice in the basket, according to what she told Enab Baladi, is that it is of “poor quality, which is difficult to serve as a main meal on the table.”
The valuable staples in the food basket are oil, flour, and sugar, and if these components are reduced, the basket becomes worthless, especially after the rise in frying oil prices, says Hiam.
Umm Mousa, 50, a woman from the villages of al-Yarmouk Plain, told Enab Baladi, “We used to dispense with the rice in the basket, but after its prices rose in the market, we went back to cooking with it, despite its badness.”
Umm Mousa sells three liters of cooking oil and buys sugar instead after reducing its quantities from the components of the food basket.
The price of one kilo of sugar reached about 3,500 Syrian pounds in the local market, while a kilo of chickpeas reached 6000 pounds (1 USD is trading for about 3,800 SYP).
The price of rice varies according to its quality, as the price of 1 kilo is not less than 3,500 SYP, and it may reach 12,000 SYP.
Rice has economic and social importance in Daraa, where most of the rural communities mainly depend on it for their daily food, and it is one of the most consumed materials in the southern region.
Reduce cooking oil quota
Residents of the towns of Tal Shihab, Zayzun, al-Ajami, and Nahj were surprised by a new reduction in the components of the food basket, including frying oil.
The Red Crescent workers distributed 4 liters of frying oil instead of 6, and the amount of sugar was raised from 1 kg to 3.
The reasons for the cut in the food rations were not known, according to what a local committee member said to Enab Baladi, who asked the staff of the Red Crescent about the reason for the reduction, but their answer was, “We do not know.”
Cooking oil is an essential component in the food basket, and without it, it becomes worthless, according to what some residents expressed in their complaints to Enab Baladi.
They added that reducing two liters of frying oil means reducing its value by 30,000 Syrian pounds, and thus the residents will be obliged to buy their needed oil from the local market.
Fears of more cuts
Daraa residents are afraid of a steady reduction of the items of the food basket, especially cooking oil and flour.
Each aid ration contains 15 kg s of flour, 6 liters of cooking oil, sugar, rice, and salt.
The price of 1 liter of cooking oil reached 15,000 Syrian pounds, and 1 kilo of flour reached 2,500 Syrian pounds.
There are those who wait for the food basket in order to obtain oil, flour, and sugar, and there are those who sell half of the quantity to be able to secure the requirements of their living, and despite the long periods between the delivery of food baskets, they are of great importance to the population.
The distribution of food rations is supervised by local committees, which receive them from the Red Crescent centers and deliver them to the home of each beneficiary, provided that he pays the transportation fees, which reach 3,000 Syria pounds for each ration.
Before the Syrian regime forces took control of the southern region in 2018, relief organizations used to enter each village separately and supervise distribution free of charge.
The aid was distributed regularly every month and was richer in food components, according to what the residents said during an opinion poll conducted by Enab Baladi.
For the first time, the UN Security Council authorized a cross-border aid operation to Syria in 2014 at four points, which are the al-Ramtha border crossing with Jordan, the al-Yarubiyah border crossing with Iraq, and Bab al-Salama and Bab al-Hawa crossings with Turkey.
The aid continued through the four points until 2020, after which it was limited to the Bab al-Hawa crossing with Turkey after a Russian-Chinese veto of cross-border aid.
First place in food insecurity
Joyce Msuya, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, said last February, as part of her briefing to the UN Security Council, that the Syrians need humanitarian assistance now more than ever.
About 14.6 million Syrians will depend on aid this year, an increase of 9 percent over 2021, and an increase of 32 percent over 2020, according to the UN’s official website.
The Syrian families now spend, on average, 50 percent more than they earn, which means borrowing money to make ends meet, and this has led to “unbearable choices,” including taking children, especially girls, out of school and increasing child marriage, Msuya added.
Syria ranks first among the ten most food-insecure countries in the world, and 12 million Syrians suffer from limited and uncertain access to food.
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