Syria mVAM Bulletin #54: April 2021


Situation Overview

• COVID-19 cases continued to surge across Syria. As of 30 April 2021, a total of 22,733 COVID-19 cases, including 1,592 fatalities, were confirmed by the Minister of Health in government-controlled areas. The monthly increase in COVID-19 cases in April (3,824 cases) signals an upward trend compared to March 2021 (3,321 cases) and represents the highest monthly caseload since the beginning of the pandemic. At the beginning of April, the Ministry of Education announced an early end of the school year for elementary education. On 22 April 2021, Syria received a total 256,800 doses of COVID-19 vaccines for government-controlled areas and northwest Syria. In northeast Syria, COVID-19 cases significantly increased during April. Around 15,931 COVID-19 cases were reported by the end of April 2021, an increase of 5,770 new cases compared to the previous month. In response, Kurdish authorities imposed a combination of full and partial lockdowns in Kurdish-controlled areas across northeast Syria throughout most of April.

• The fuel shortage crisis continued to worsen across Syria. On 16 April 2021, the Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection increased the liter price of 95-octane gasoline from 2,000 SYP to 2,500 SYP. This represents the second rise in official fuel prices within one month. On 25 April 2021, a drone attack reportedly struck an oil tanker near the Baniyas refinery (the largest Syrian oil refinery), resulting in a fire and casualties. Meanwhile, to address the limited access to fuel and its impact on congestion at filling stations, the Syrian government introduced an SMS-based system to alert households when they are eligible to receive their fuel allocation (20 liters every seven days). Simultaneously, the Syrian government announced a reduction of working hours at ministries to reduce the operational costs related to fuel and electricity consumption, and to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Moreover, the crossings between Kurdish-controlled areas and Government of Syria controlled areas re-opened in early April, after two weeks of closure, under a new agreement including that the Kurdish authorities would provide the Syrian Government with 200 fuel tanker trucks each week.

• On 13 April 2021, the Head of the Syrian Central Bank was relieved of his job. On 15 April 2021, the Syrian Central Bank officially devalued the Syrian pound from SYP 1,256/USD to SYP 2,512/USD.
This is the first official devaluation of the Syrian pound since July 2020 and the third devaluation since November 2019. Furthermore, on 18 April 2021, Syria’s Parliament Speaker announced that the Syrian Presidential Election will be held on 26 May 2021.

• Intensified hostilities were reported in northwest Syria in April, including artillery shelling targeting multiple areas of southern Idleb. In northeast Syria, shelling and armed clashes broke out between armed groups in Qamishli city (Al-Hasakeh governorate), resulting in civilian casualties and the displacement of more than 20,000 people. The spate of violence continued to impact humanitarian operations and aid workers across Syria, thus hindering safe access to vulnerable people who are in urgent need of life-saving assistance. On 17 April 2021, two Syrian aid workers were reportedly killed in an armed attack in Deir-ez-Zor as they were returning from a humanitarian assistance project.

• Despite the challenges of fuel shortages and COVID-19 movement-related restrictions, WFP delivered general food assistance to approximately 4.6 million people throughout Syria during April 2021.
WFP started the pre-positioning of food rations in northwest Syria as a contingency measure in the event of a non-renewal of the UN Security Council resolution which authorizes the cross-border operation when the resolution expires on 10 July 2021.