Syrians in desperate need of help were hit hard by the fallout of Ukraine

Umm Caled says he rarely leaves his tent in northwestern Syria and pays no attention to the news. But she knows one of the reasons why feeding herself and her children is becoming more and more difficult. It’s Ukraine.

“Prices are rising and this has happened to us since the beginning of the war in Ukraine,” said a 40-year-old who lived in a tent camp for refugees in Syria’s last rebel outpost. Said the past six years after escaping a government attack.

Food prices around the world were already rising, but the war in Ukraine has accelerated the rise since the invasion of Russia began on February 24th. Old civil war.

The rebel outposts in Idlib, northwestern Syria, are filled with about 4 million people, most of whom have fled elsewhere in the country. Most people rely on international aid to survive, from food and housing to medical care and education.

Due to rising prices, some aid agencies are curtailing food aid. The largest provider, the United Nations World Food Program, began this week to reduce its monthly rations to 1.35 million people in the region.

The crisis in Ukraine has created a whole new refugee group. European countries and the United States are rushing to help more than 5.5 million Ukrainians who have fled to neighboring countries and more than 7 million Ukrainians who have fled within the Ukrainian border.

Aid agencies hope to bring world attention back to Syria at a two-day donor conference for humanitarian aid to Syria, which begins Monday in Brussels, hosted by the United Nations and the European Union. The funds will also be used to help 5.7 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, especially Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

Last year, the EU, the United States and other countries pledged $ 6.4 billion to support neighboring countries accepting Syrians and refugees. But that was well below the $ 10 billion required by the United Nations, and the impact was felt in the field. In Idlib, 10 out of 50 medical centers lost money in 2022, forcing them to dramatically reduce services, Amnesty International said in a report released Thursday.

Throughout Syria, people are being forced to eat less, the Norwegian refugee council said. The group surveyed hundreds of families across the country and found that 87% skipped meals to meet other living expenses.

“Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis continues to attract world attention, but donors and governments meeting in Brussels must not forget their commitment to Syria,” NRC Director of the Middle East, Carsten Hansen, said in a Thursday report. Stated.

The United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF said more than 6.5 million children in Syria need help, calling it the highest record since the conflict began. Since 2011, more than 13,000 children have been confirmed to have been killed or injured.

Meanwhile, UNICEF said funding for humanitarian activities in Syria is declining rapidly, receiving less than half of this year’s funding requirements. “Cross-border activities require an urgent need of about $ 20 million,” the agency said in a statement.

Umm Khaled is one of the people who depend on food aid. As her aid rations decreased, she became deeper in debt to support her family.

Her husband and eldest son were killed in a Syrian government airstrike in their hometown of Aleppo in 2016. Shortly thereafter, she fled to an Idlib rebel landing with her three surviving children. Since then, they have lived in tent camps with other refugees on the outskirts of the town of Atme near the Turkish border.

Her family lives on a meal twice a day. Breakfast and late afternoon entrees for lunch and dinner. Her only income is to pick olives for several weeks a year and earn 20 Turkish lira ($ 1.35) a day.

“I used to get enough rice, bulgur, lentils, etc. Now they keep reducing them,” she said on the phone from the camp. She spoke for fear of her influence, provided her full name was not published. She lives with her two daughters, 6 and 16, and her 12-year-old son, who suffered head and arm injuries on a strike that killed her brother and father.

According to aid group Mercy Corps, prices of necessities in northwestern Syria have already risen by 22% to 67% since the start of the Ukrainian conflict. There is also a shortage of sunflower oil, sugar and flour.

Mercy Corps says it is providing cash aid to refugee Syrians to buy food and other needs and has no plans to reduce the amount.

“Bread was already becoming more and more affordable, even before the war in Ukraine,” said Keelen Burns, Syrian Country Director, Mercy Corps. Most of the wheat brought into northwestern Syria comes from Ukraine, which does not produce enough wheat to meet their needs.

“The world is witnessing a year of catastrophic hunger, with huge gaps between the resources and needs of millions of people around the world,” said Abeer Etefa, a spokeswoman for WFP. ..

She said WFP is reducing the size of food it offers in many businesses around the world. Starting this month, supply will drop from 1,340 calories per day to 1,177 calories in northwestern Syria. Food baskets continue to offer product combinations such as flour, rice, chickpeas, lentils, bulgur wheat, sugar and oil.

According to Etefa, rising prices have increased WFP’s food aid costs by 51% since 2019, which could be even higher as the effects of the Ukrainian crisis are felt.

At the beginning of the year before the Ukrainian conflict began, a 29% cost surge required the Czech aid agency People in Need to switch from serving food packages to serving food vouchers. Vouchers worth $ 60 buy less food than the group’s target level, but have had to take steps to “maximize the scope of food aid to the most vulnerable people.”

“Syria is in another forgotten crisis,” UN Assistant Secretary-General Joyce Msuya warned in late April as the world turned to other conflicts.

In northwestern Syria, “a phenomenal 4.1 million people” need humanitarian aid, Musuya said. Not only food, but also medicines, blankets, school supplies and shelters. She said that nearly one million people in the area, mainly women and children, live in tents, half of which have exceeded their normal lifespan.

Many say the situation could worsen in July as Russia could force international aid to the northwest through parts of Syria under the control of its ally President Bashar Assad. Is afraid.

Currently, aid goes directly from Turkey across a single border into the Idlib enlave via Bab Alhawa. The UN mandate to allow delivery through Bab al-Hawa ended on July 9, implying that Russia would veto a Security Council resolution to renew the mandate.

Russia’s veto will effectively hand over Assad’s control over the flow of aid to the opposition’s outlying land, and the US and EU had previously warned that funding would cease in that case.

The result is likely to be a serious humanitarian crisis and a new flood of Syrian immigrants to Turkey and Europe, the German Institute for International Security warned in a report.

Umm Caled said he had to endure the deteriorating living environment.

“They continue to reduce our food baskets,” she said. “May God protect us if they cut it completely.” [AP] Syrians in desperate need of help were hit hard by the fallout of Ukraine

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