Syria Food Security Quarterly Update (April - June 2017)


Key Issues

During the second quarter of 2017, conflict continued to impact food security in Syria through high market prices of basic food items and fuel, large displacements, constrained access to humanitarian assistance, lack of access to clean water and increased levels of malnutrition. The intensity of conflict (airstrikes, attacks and direct clashes) continued to be high, although the overall number of incidents has declined since the first quarter of the year and were mostly concentrated in five governorates namely Hama, Aleppo, Homs, ArRaqqa and Deir-ez-Zor. In June, an estimated 540 000 people were still trapped in 31 besieged locations in four governorates, including Damascus, Rural Damascus, Idleb and Deir-ez-Zor. As of 27 June, Ar-Raqqa city has also been besieged.

Over six million people remain internally displaced inside Syria. In this reporting period, over 100 000 persons were displaced per month in April and May, although the number of displaced declined to 78 000 in June. Deterioration of security and economic conditions as well as lack of basic services in the places of origin were most frequently cited reasons for displacement. Most new displacements occurred from and within Aleppo, Idleb, Hama and Ar-Raqqa governorates. In June 2017, an estimated 63 000 people returned to their places of origin; Aleppo governorate received nearly half of the returnees.

During the first six months of this year, over 440 000 IDPs have returned to their homes in Syria primarily for such reasons as looking for family members, checking on property, and, in some cases, improved security conditions2 . However, major challenges facing returnees such as lack of livelihood opportunities, shortages of food and water, limited basic services and restricted humanitarian access are likely to restrict sustainable and large-scale returns3 . Between January and May 2017, the Whole of Syria (WoS) Food Security Sector (FSS) partners provided food assistance to over five million people and distributed bread and wheat flour to over two million people in different locations of Syria on a monthly basis. The FSS has also provided emergency food rations to a total of 1.5 million beneficiaries in the first five months of this year, while slightly over 165 000 households were reached with livelihood / agriculture assistance activities. In besieged parts of Deir-ez-Zor city humanitarian assistance to population in need was delivered through airdrops led by World Food Programme (WFP). However, for logistical reasons, implementation of airdrops was not possible in other besieged locations where an estimated 440 000 population remained.

According to the latest Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) conducted by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and WFP4 , cereal production has improved this year compared to a recordlow production of last year. However, the total wheat production, estimated at 1.8 million tons, is still less than half of the pre-conflict (2002-2011) average of 4.1 million tons. Nearly 80% of the wheat was harvested in four governorates: Aleppo, Al-Hassakeh, Ar-Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor. Completion of harvests has also improved availability of stubble grazing for livestock, although the price of fodder remained high.

Increased supplies of wheat following a relatively improved harvest is likely to result in a short-term decline of wheat market prices. However, the compounding effects of expected disruptions in market supplies owing to the ongoing conflict as well as forecasts of the overall shortage of wheat availability for 2017/18 marketing year (CFSAM uncovered a shortfall of 616 000 tons in wheat supply) is likely to exert an upward pressure on cereal prices in the following period. Since the beginning of the year, the national average price of wheat flour as well as diesel and bread have surged significantly and were considerably higher compared to the levels a year ago. Markets of Rural Damascus (Arbin and Nashabiyehbesieged areas), Homs (Homs city) and Hama (Kafr Zeita) exhibited over three-fold increase in wheat flour prices during this period due to population displacement and restricted commercial movement in Hama owing to the escalated conflict in March.

Intensified conflict resulted in a drastic reduction of functional drinking water sources in Ar-Raqqa between April and June, although the situation has improved in Deir-ez-Zor since the previous quarter.

Nevertheless, access to clean drinking water remains constrained in most governorates of the country, while the prevalence rates of water-borne diseases have more than doubled since the previous quarter.
The results of a screening of 379 395 children of under five years of age carried out in the second quarter of the year in health clinics across 13 governorates of the country indicated an increase in the caseload of malnutrition since the previous quarter. Twenty-seven percent of the acutely malnourished children were in the severe form. However, the results of screening data aggregated to governorate level didn’t indicate any deviation from the expected trend /caseload5 . In June 2017, the highest proportions of cases of acutely malnourished children at governorate level were found in Hama (5.8%), followed by Rural Damascus (4.7%) and Idleb (4.2%)6 .

Early actions should be based on recovery of agriculture sector, including rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure and value chains in order to increase production levels and support livelihood recovery. Food assistance will be required to continue supporting Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) along with livelihood support activities to facilitate return.