Syria: 'economic crisis is deepening poverty & increasing humanitarian need' – UN Humanitarian Chief

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Briefing the Security Council, UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said, “humanitarian aid operations across Syria are reaching an average of 6.8 million people each month,” adding that the economic crisis in the country is “deepening poverty and pushing more people into humanitarian need.”

Addressing to the Council members via video link today (29 Jul), Lowcock said the Syrian economy, “devastated by nearly a decade of conflict, has entered a period of extreme fragility, marked by exchange rate volatility, high inflation, dwindling remittances, and lock down measures to contain COVID-19.”

He explained, “for the year as a whole, the economy is expected to contract by more than 7 per cent this year. Initial estimates suggest that job losses in recent months have increased unemployment from 42 per cent last year to close to 50 per cent today.”

He also warned that food prices are 240 per cent higher than in June last year, so families across the country can no longer afford the very basics. Some 9.3 million people are food insecure, he said, while more than two million more are at risk of becoming food insecure.

Lowcock added that the ceasefire reached in March in the north-west between the Russian Federation and Turkey is largely holding, but some air and ground-based strikes have been reported in recent weeks.

The Humanitarian Response Plan for Syria, with a funding requirement of $3.4 billion in 2020, is 32 per cent funded halfway through the year.

He also reiterated his appeal to invest in the education of Syria’s children. He said, “a third of school-aged children in Syria – 2.5 million children – are out of school. Another 1.6 million are at risk of dropping out of school. The number of out-of-school children has increased by 16 per cent since last year. With school closures due to COVID-19, that number is very likely to increase further.”

He said that “amid simultaneous and seemingly unsurmountable crises they are not losing sight of their future. Neither should we.”