Drought problems envelop Syria
Published: Aug. 7, 2009 at 11:12 AM
DAMASCUS, Syria, Aug. 7 (UPI) The drought that has kept Syria dry for three
years has cost more than 800,000 people their livelihoods, Red Cross and Red
Crescent officials said.
The International Federal of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies this week
said about $300,000 had been set aside for immediate assistance for about
40,000 people in Syria in the most need.
Studies by international groups, including the Syrian Arab Red Crescent
Society, said about 60,000 families have migrated from drought-affected
areas, with most of the migrants leaving northeastern Syria, an area
considered the country's "breadbasket" because of its importance to
Families are selling their belongings to buy food, and many children under
the age of 3 are malnourished, a release by the Red Crescent society said.
Parents are pulling children from schools and putting them to work to
provide income for families.
The drought, which began in 2008, came shortly after an even more severe
drought the previous two years. Rainfall totals were 15 percent to 30
percent of average for most grain-producing areas in the 2008-09 growing
season. This was after rainfall averaged less than 2 inches from September
2007 to April 2008.
"There is still enough food in Syria to go around," World Food Program
spokesman Abdullah Mawazini told the United Nations' Integrated Regional
Information Networks. "But we are worried about the provision of basic
materials. It is a dangerous indicator for Syria that last year we had to
Agriculture output has fallen 50 percent since 2007 as many farmers have
gone two years without crops, leading Syria last year to import wheat for
the first time. Livestock owners with medium- to small-sized herds have lost
80 percent of their flocks because pasture and fodder aren't available,
Wheat production was predicted to decline 38 percent to about 2.5 million
tons, which would be the lowest level in 17 years, from 2008 yields of about
4 million tons, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a report.
Government estimates indicate barley yields were off 67 percent compared
with previous growing seasons.
With a high percent of agriculture in Syria carried out by subsistence
farmers, families lost not only income but their primary source of food,
Short supplies of grains have been reflected in a sharp increase in food
prices elsewhere in the country, spreading the problem even further. The
International Monetary Fund said inflation in Syria tripled to 15 percent
from 2007 to 2008.
The lack of water "led to drastic erosion of livelihoods and threatened food
security for some 1.3 million inhabitants," the Red Crescent release said,
adding about 803,000 people have lost all of their livelihoods and face
extreme hardship as their income has fallen about 90 percent. The figures
represent about 5 percent of Syria's total population.
The migrants have been seeking refuge in Syria's cities, notably Damascus,
Daraa, Hama and Aleppo. Resources in those locations were already stretched
by the estimated 1 million refugees from neighboring Iraq, a situation that
is creating "precarious living conditions."