SITUATION AT A GLANCE
Estimated Population in Need of Humanitarian Assistance in Syria
UN – Dec. 2020
Estimated Food-Insecure Population in Syria
UN – Oct. 2020
Estimated Number of IDPs in Syria
UN – Oct. 2020
Estimated People USAID/BHA Reaches per Month in Syria
UN – Nov. 2020
Estimated People State/PRM Reaches per Month in Syria
UN – Nov. 2020
Syria’s ongoing economic crisis continues to impact food security as food prices reach record high in October; relief actors track rising malnutrition in northwest Syria.
As Syria’s COVID-19 outbreak surpasses 36,000 confirmed cases, humanitarian agencies warn that a lack of testing capacity obscures the full extent of transmission.
USAID/BHA and State/PRM partners provide lifesaving food, health, nutrition, protection, shelter, and WASH assistance, along with critical winterization support to IDPs and vulnerable host communities.
Food Prices Reach Record High in October
Syria’s ongoing economic crisis continues to adversely affect food security conditions, raising food pric es in October to the highest monthly level recorded since 2013, the year when the UN World Food Program (WFP) began collecting food price data in Syria. The national average food basket price increased nearly 250 percent from October 2019 to October 2020. According to WFP data, nearly 50 percent of all households reported poor and borderline food consumption levels in October, a more than 40 percent increase since June and a two-fold increase compared to October 2019. As the Syrian Pound depreciates, rising food costs are straining household purchasing power and prompting families to adopt negative coping strategies, such as relying on less expensive food, eating fewer meals per day, and prioritizing child food consumption needs while restricting adult food consumption.
Malnutrition Rising in Northwest Syria
Nutrition conditions deteriorated in northwest Syria during 2020, according to health facility nutrition surveillance data collected by the Nutrition Cluster, the coordinating body for humanitarian nutrition activities, comprising UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other stakeholders. Approximately 34 percent of children younger than five years of age were experiencing impaired growth and development due to a sub-optimal nutrition environment—a condition known as stunting—as of October, representing an increase of 5 percent since January. Additionally, the number of children requiring hospitalization for complications from severe acute malnutrition between January and October 2020 was three times higher than admissions during the same period in 2019. Maternal malnutrition remains a significant public health issue in the region, particularly in areas of displacement, where an estimated 20 to 37 percent of pregnant and lactating women were malnourished as of October, according to the cluster. The Nutrition Cluster warns that several factors could worsen nutrition conditions in 2021, including the continued spread of COVID-19—which has affected health facilities, where nutrition assistance is often provided—and the ongoing impact of the economic crisis on food insecurity.
In response, the Nutrition Cluster continues to support nearly 150 Rapid Response Teams (RRTs)— mobile teams comprised of technical specialists—to provide integrated nutrition programming in northwest Syria. From January to October, the RRTs provided nutrition services to nearly 818,000 people, including approximately 417,500 pregnant and lactating women and 400,500 children ages 6–59 months. Nutrition assistance includes high energy biscuits for the prevention of acute malnutrition, micronutrient supplements, and treatment for moderate and severe acute malnutrition.
COVID-19 Outbreak Surpasses 36,000 Confirmed Cases
The cumulative number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Syria currently exceeds 36,000, including more than 1,000 deaths, as of December 18. To date, health actors report nearly 19,200 confirmed COVID19 cases in opposition-held areas of northwest Syria and nearly 7,700 COVID-19 cases in northeast Syria, while the Syrian Arab Republic Government (SARG) Ministry of Health reports more than 9,700 cases in SARG-held areas of Syria. However, UN agencies continue to warn that the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases likely represents a fraction of actual caseloads, as the majority of confirmed cases are of untraced or unknown origin and testing capacity remains limited countrywide. In northeast Syria, the UN reports that a reduction in new confirmed COVID-19 cases in recent weeks is likely attributable to low surveillance capacity and decreased testing. In SARG-held areas, humanitarian agencies continue to receive reports of hospitals unable to receive all suspected cases, as well as continued community stigma and reluctance to receive treatment at hospitals, the UN reports. Meanwhile, in northwest Syria, a sharp increase in COVID-19 prevalence since early November has resulted in a lack of available space to isolate and monitor suspected COVID-19 cases in health facilities, according to the UN.
Syria’s ongoing COVID-19 outbreak continues to stress health care capacity. A mid-November UN COVID-19 rapid assessment emphasized that COVID-19-related medical services remain critically insufficient across Syria, with severe shortages in health facility capacity, quarantine spaces, and testing across the majority of the country. Moreover, health workers remain at heightened risk of exposure and transmission, often due to a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) availability in some areas. As of December 8, nearly 240 health workers had tested positive for COVID-19 in SARG-held areas, including 12 resultant deaths, according to UN reports. In northwest Syria, medical professionals, community health workers, and other health facility staff represent approximately 12 percent of total cases.
Health actors across northern Syria also continue to track the spread of COVID-19 in displacement camps and informal settlements. As of December 9, a total of 25 COVID-19 cases had been confirmed in northeast Syria camps, including 13 in Al Hasakah Governorate’s Al Hol camp. In northwest Syria, cases in camps represent approximately 10 percent of the region’s overall case total as of December 18. Relief actors in northwest Syria are bolstering community outreach activities in and around camps while also prioritizing camps in community-based COVID-19 screening.
Cross-Border Operations Maintain Critical Assistance in Northwest Syria
From October 1 to November 13, more than 1,300 trucks transported UN humanitarian assistance through Turkey’s Bab al-Hawa crossing to northwest Syria, according to the Logistics Cluster. The total includes more than 940 trucks during October—representing an increase from 845 trucks during September—transporting UN food, health, shelter, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) assistance. From January to October, the UN recorded more than 10,730 trucks transporting UN assistance from Turkey to northern Syria; more than 90 percent of the cargo was food security -related assistance, followed by 6 percent shelter, 3 percent health, and 1 percent WASH support. UN crossborder operations remain essential to supporting the estimated 2.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region, as well as vulnerable host communities.