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Hunger Adds to Syria Crisis

Syrian refugees. Source:UNHCR Click to enlarge map.
Feb. 28, 2014 - Food shortages are an increasing concern for UN and other humanitarian officials working with civilians in Syria, with blockades of food deliveries preventing many regions from receiving adequate supplies.

The situation grows worse as Syria is about to reach the third anniversary of a civil war that was preceded by a drought.

Drought Leads to Crisis
By 2011 more than 800,000 Syrians were displaced as the drought ruined their crops, and many more lost their livelihood from bad weather and crop conditions that year. After the Damascus government failed to address problems of people displaced into crowded camps, an Arab Spring revolt erupted into a violent civil war.

Now, another type of refugee is suffering from food shortages. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees office says that Palestinian refugees living in the Yarmouk camp in Damascus have not been able to receive adequate deliveries of food and the toll on public health there is showing the effects.

The United Nations Security Council on Feb. 22 passed a resolution calling on all sides, especially the Syrian government, to allow safe passage of humanitarian aid, notably food and medicine, to civilians.

Hunger Growing Throughout Region
Although Syria's food crisis is very acute, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization has just released a report on the food situation in the Middle East and North Africa. It points out that malnutrition is a serious problem throughout that region.

The number of chronically undernourished people in the Region in 2010-13 reached 79.4 million, representing 11.2% of the population which was higher than in the 2008-2010 period," the FAO report said. "In addition, an estimated 43.4% of children under five are stunted."

Food Security as a Human Right
Further, the US Department of State noted lack of food as a serious problem in its report on Syria's human rights situation. The observations, part of the overall 2013 Human Rights report, described both intentional and collateral effects of food deprivation on civilians caught in the fighting.

"For example," the report said, "the regime siege of Moadamiya al-Sham near Damascus, which continued throughout the year, led to unprecedented reports of severe malnutrition as well as malnutrition-related deaths, particularly of children. In July the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a statement saying it had failed to reach agreement with the government to facilitate access to besieged neighborhoods of Homs."

Other sieges Damascus, Dara’a, al-Qunaytirah, and Dayr al-Zaw “appeared to be calculated to render the conditions of life unbearable forcing civilians to flee,” the report said.

"The (UN Commission of Inquiry) and media reported that opposition groups also surrounded towns and limited access to supplies (such as food) in places such as Afrin, Nubl, and Zahra," the report said.

"International organizations such as the World Food Program and International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies attempted to continue providing food and medical assistance, but the regime and the opposition actively resisted this assistance in many cases," the report said.

KARAMA, JORDAN- MARCH 2: Watfa, a Syrian refugee prepares food near her tent March 02, 2014 in the town of Al Karama, west Jordan. The illegal camp of around fifty families, all from the Syrian city of Hama, live in tents, travel among Jordan every couple of months to avoid local hot or cold weather and to find agricultural work that is provided for them depending on relief each season. Eighty percent of Syrian refugees in Jordan live outside the four legal camps where they can find work.

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Syria Conflict Timeline

Sep 09
Four years of drought in Syria had pushed more than a million into poverty and caused 800,000 to lose their livelihood, said a UN special envoy. Drought refugees were beginning to crowd into the cities of Syria.

Mar 15
Refugees from a drought in the north of Syria crowd into Aleppo and Daara. Discontent with the Assad government's response to bad conditions and subsistence shortages boils over into revolt.
Mar 25
Syrians took the streets by the 10,000's to protest government crackdowns that had taken the lives of at least 50 during the previous week. The protests went by popular names such as "Friday of Martyrs" or "Dignity Friday."
Jun 04
The Syrian Army launched an offensive in Jisr ash-Shugur and met an organized armed resistance.
Jul 29
Officers defecting from the Assad's army formed the Free Syrian Army.
Aug 23
The opposition Syrian National Council is formed.

Jan 07
In one of the first major assaults of 2012, the Assad government initiates a failed attempt to regain Zabadani from rebel control. The government has been shelling civilian populations indiscriminately.
Jan 18
The battle in Zabadani ends after more than a week of fighting with the Free Syrian Army in control of the city.
Mar 14
Assad's army ousts the rebels from Idlib.
Apr 12
The UN mediates a ceasefire.
Apr 24
A massacre by pro-government forces kills 108 people in the Houla region north of Homs. It ends the ceasefire.
Jul 10
Rebels capture al-Qusayr in Homs Governate.
Oct 08
The rebels capture Douma, a large suburb of Damascus.
Nov 22
Rebels capture the Mayadeen military base in the country's eastern Deir ez-Zor Governorate
Dec 16
The rebels launch their Hama offensive, and took half the province.

Jan 11
On 11 January 2013, Islamist groups took the Taftanaz air base in Idlib province.
Feb 11
Islamist rebels took the town of Al-Thawrah in Ar-Raqqah province and nearby Tabqa Dam.
Mar 04
Rebels take Raqqa, the capital of al-Raqqah govern ate. It is the first capture of a provincial capital.
Mar 23
Rebels capture and air defense base on the road from Damascus to Jordan.
Apr 03
Rebels capture a military base near the southern city of Daraa.
May 08
Assad's army takes Khirbet Ghazaleh near the Jordanian border, pushing out about 1,000 rebel fighters.
Jun 06
Rebels take the Quneitra border crossing, but the government retakes it. This border crossing links to the Israeli held Golan Heights.
Aug 21
A chemical attack occurs in the Ghouta region. This attack prompts diplomacy that results in an effort to remove and destroy Syria's stock of chemical weapons.
Nov 23
Islamist groups take al-Omar oil field, Syria's largest oil field, in Deir al-Zor province.

Jan 03
The Army of the Mujahideen, the Free Syrian Army and the Islamic Front begin an offensive against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
Feb 22
The UN Security Council passed resolution 2139 calling for improved humanitarian conditions in Syria.
Mar 05
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria published a report on human rights abuse for the second half of 2013 and called on legal accountability for guilty parties on either side. For the first time the commission named suspected perpetrators who were not among government forces.
Jul 03
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria took the Al-Omar oil field in Deir-Ezzor Province of Syria, wresting it from the control of a rival al-Qaeda group called the Nusra Front.
Jul 03
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria took the Al-Omar oil field in Deir-Ezzor Province of Syria, wresting it from the control of a rival al-Qaeda group called the Nusra Front.
Aug 27
The UN released a report saying the Syrian government and non-state fighters engaged in atrocities that amounted to crimes against humanity.