SITUATION AT A GLANCE
USG announces more than $720 million in new humanitarian funding to respond to the Syria crisis, for a total of more than $1.5 billion since October 2019.
Relief actors report rising food insecurity and malnutrition amid Syria’s ongoing economic crisis and large-scale displacement. In northwest Syria alone, 4.3 million people are in need of food security and livelihoods assistance.
As confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to rise countrywide, humanitarian agencies warn of lack of testing and response capacity.
USG Announces More Than $720 Million in Funding for Syria Response
During the UN General Assembly on September 24, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun announced more than $720 million in additional U.S. Government (USG) humanitarian assistance for the Syria crisis. The funding will support the provision of emergency food, health, livelihood, shelter, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) assistance for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable populations in Syria, as well as Syrian refugees in the region. The new assistance is part of more than $1.5 billion in funding since October 2019 to support the Syria complex emergency response, as well as more than $140 million specifically for regional coronavirus disease (COVID-19) preparedness and response efforts. Since the start of the crisis in 2012, the USG has provided more than $12 billion in humanitarian assistance to help Syrians in need.
Lack of Response Capacity Amid Worsening COVID-19 Outbreak
Health actors had confirmed more than 6,500 COVID-19 cases across Syria as of September 29. Health organizations continue to report the majority of cases originate in Syrian Arab Republic Government (SARG)-held areas, where the SARG Ministry of Health had confirmed 4,102 cases—including 194 resultant deaths—as of September 28, although the actual number of cases is likely much higher, according to humanitarian agencies and international media. Additionally, as of September 29, health actors had confirmed 906 COVID-19 cases and six related deaths in opposition-held areas of Aleppo and Idlib governorates. As of September 28, the Self Administration of Northeast Syria had confirmed 1,497 cases, including 62 deaths, in northeast Syria’s Aleppo, Dayr az Zawr, Al Hasakah, and Ar Raqqah governorates. The continued increase in cases, particularly those with unknown or untraceable exposure, likely reflects widespread community transmission across the country, the UN reports. The risk for COVID-19 spread in Syria remains high due to fragile health care systems, high levels of population displacement, densely crowded IDP settlements, and logistical difficulties implementing COVID-19 preparedness, mitigation, testing, and response measures across varying areas of control.
The UN and other relief actors report that a continued lack of adequate COVID-19 testing and response capacity, as well as a widespread easing of COVID-19 preventative measures, could exacerbate transmission countrywide.
In Northwest Syria, Food Insecurity Remains a Crisis
The average price of the UN World Food Program (WFP) reference food basket—the cost for a group of essential food commodities, including bread, lentils, rice, and oil—decreased 3 percent from July to August, representing the first decrease since July 2019. However, as of August, food prices remained 22 times higher than the five-year pre-crisis average, WFP reports. Months of steep Syrian Pound depreciation amid Syria’s ongoing economic crisis had caused the price of basic food items to increase by approximately 240 percent countrywide from June 2019 to June 2020. Food price increases— combined with protracted conflict, prolonged large-scale internal displacement, and the economic consequences of COVID-19-related restrictions—have resulted in a sharp increase in food insecurity, particularly in opposition-held areas of northwest Syria, where a June UN survey found that more than 70 percent of households reported incomes insufficient to meet daily food needs. According to the Food Security and Livelihoods Cluster—the coordinating body for humanitarian food security and livelihoods activities, comprising UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other stakeholders, including USAID/BHA partners—4.3 million people in northwest Syria are in need of food security and livelihoods assistance as of September; this figure is approximately the total population of northwest Syria. Of the total, 3.7 million are food-insecure and approximately 615,000 are at risk of food insecurity and in need of livelihoods support.
Humanitarian Agencies Caution of Rising Malnutrition in Syria
As food insecurity persists, humanitarian agencies are tracking rising levels of chronic malnutrition among children and acute malnutrition among pregnant and lactating women (PLW), particularly in northern Syria, according to USAID/BHA partner the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). According to an August UN nutrition report, approximately 10 percent of PLW in northwest Syria were acutely malnourished, while the prevalence of chronic malnutrition among children ages six to 59 months had risen from 19 percent in May 2019 to more than 30 percent in May 2020. As of mid-September, humanitarian agencies warned of continued shortages of malnutrition treatment supplies, as well as the potential for nutrition conditions to worsen in the coming months due to dysfunctional markets, limited livelihood opportunities, low purchasing power, and disrupted access to health services amid Syria’s COVID-19 outbreak.