During February 2020, WFP conducted 29 focus group discussions (FGD) across 8 governorates* in Syria (both in urban and rural settings) interviewing WFP beneficiary households to see how they were coping with the recent rising food prices. This report provides an overview of the main findings from the focus group discussions.
The worsening economic situation in Lebanon by end 2019 has had ripple effects in Syria. The US Dollar supply in Syria has greatly reduced as Lebanese banks have restricted the release of money from bank accounts, hereby also affecting many Syrians with Lebanese bank accounts. The reduced supply of US Dollars has caused the SYP/ USD informal exchange rate to skyrocket, depreciating by 64% since October 2019 and by 88% since November 2018 (when the US sanctions on Iran intensified).
Food prices in Syria increased as a result of the depreciating informal exchange rate. WFP’s national average reference food basket is now recorded at SYP 39,986, increasing by 57% since October 2019 and by 67% since February 2019. The price of non-food items have also increased. Notably the national average informal diesel price has increased to SYP 527/litre while its official price is 189/litre and the national average informal butane gas price has increased to SYP 18,830/25,000 litre refill, while its official price is SYP 3,021/25,000 litre refill.
The higher price of food have meant that an increasing number of interviewed households reported reducing the number of meals they consume, from 3 to 2 meals per day. Other reported coping mechanisms as a result of the increase in prices since September 2019 have been removing children from school due to the high cost of transport to school. Some households also reported removing children from school to have them work instead, bringing-in additional needed income for the household. Reports of early child marriage were on the rise across Syria and were specifically reported from FGDs in Quneitra, Lattakia (urban IDPs), Deir-ez-Zor (rural and urban) and Al-Hasakeh (rural and urban), all mentioning an increase of around 25% in early child marriage cases.
There was a large increase in the number of households reporting to purchase items on credit. Rural areas reported around 50% of people in their community buying on credit (up from 20% to 30% in September 2019) while urban areas reported between 60% to 80% of people buying on credit (up from 50% in September 2019).