Syria

Amid record high food insecurity in crisis-hit Syria, UNDP and humanitarian partners join efforts to increase access to affordable bread for vulnerable Syrians

Damascus, 1 June 2022 – In Syria, the adverse impact of the Ukraine crisis on food security is being felt by the most vulnerable whose diets depend heavily on wheat-based bread. As the country enters its 12th year of crisis, humanitarian needs are at their highest levels. A deteriorating socio-economic context has contributed to approximately 90% of the population living in poverty. Food insecurity has reached historic highs with an estimated 60% of the population who are food insecure.

In these critical circumstances, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), together with other humanitarian partners, is ramping up efforts to address food insecurity at a scale commensurate with current needs. It is doing so within the framework of the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) and the Parameters and Principles of UN Assistance in Syria to meet the needs of the most vulnerable across the country, including undernourished women, children and persons with disabilities. More impactful solutions to meet the food security needs of poor Syrians, irrespective of lines of control, can no longer be deferred.

As in other countries in the region, public bakeries represent a lifeline for millions of vulnerable Syrian households. The 12.4 million Syrians, who today are food insecure, depend on bread from public bakeries to meet their minimum daily calorie intake. Given the centrality of public bakeries to assure the nutrition of the poorest households, UNDP and partners are implementing a series of integrated humanitarian interventions within the framework of the HRP to strengthen the wheat-to-bread value chain, which has been greatly disrupted by years of conflict and drought.

On-going interventions include livelihoods support to farming communities and the rehabilitation of irrigation systems and public bakeries across the country. It also includes the rehabilitation of the only, still operating, public yeast factory in Syria, located in Homs Governorate. Before the crisis, Syria had four state-owned factories which daily provided around 113 tonnes of yeast to an extensive network of public bakeries throughout the country. Today, as a result of damage or destruction, the Homs factory is the only one that remains operational, albeit at a much-reduced scale. Only 6 to 10 tonnes of yeast (representing 5 to 9% of pre-crisis production) are produced daily and distributed to public bakeries in Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Tartous and Lattakia governorates. There are no major, private producers of yeast in the country. As a result, yeast needs to be imported, which, given the acute devaluation of the Syrian pound, greatly drives up bread prices at a time when vulnerable households are only able to cover 50 per cent of their basic expenditures.

Increasing yeast production at the Homs factory therefore represents a high-impact intervention to rapidly and significantly scale up access to affordable bread to vulnerable people in the above-cited governorates. Together, these governorates contain roughly one third of the food insecure population targeted by the whole of Syria humanitarian response. By the time rehabilitation is complete, the factory is expected to produce 24 tonnes of yeast per day, to be distributed to public bakeries in these areas. This increase will benefit an additional 3 million vulnerable people who will be able to access affordable bread.

The on-going rehabilitation of the Homs yeast factory, which is based on UNDP technical assessments, will cost approximately USD 1 million. In response to recent media reports, UNDP confirms that 80% of the funds will go to the technical rehabilitation of yeast processing and packaging equipment. The remaining 20% of the budget will go towards ensuring that the factory meets basic safety and hygiene standards.

UNDP’s overarching objective in Syria is to deliver much needed early recovery assistance to crisis-affected populations. Access to essential humanitarian services such as health, education, safe water and affordable food are critical to the resilience of vulnerable Syrian communities. UNDP’s assistance to populations in need is prioritized based on independent and thorough needs assessments, such as those presented in the Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) and UNDP’s specific studies and sector assessments, including conflict sensitivity analyses and protection risk assessments at the field level. UNDP is committed to meeting needs in a principled way that advances basic human rights and mitigates risks across its operations to ensure that assistance is needs based, free from interference, and in line with humanitarian principles.

For further information, please contact:

Giacomo Negrotto, Partnership Development Officer, giacomo.negrotto@undp.org Tel: +963 99 33 38 908