People shop for food in Syria's northwestern city of Idlib last month
Civil unrest is increasing the risk of hunger for 1.4 million people in Syria, which must raise cereal imports by a third to offset a loss in output, the United Nations' food agency said Thursday. © Bulent Kilic - AFP
People shop for food in Syria's northwestern city of Idlib last month
AFP
Last updated: March 15, 2012

UN agency: 1.4 million risk hunger in Syria

Civil unrest is increasing the risk of hunger for 1.4 million people in Syria, which must raise cereal imports by a third to offset a loss in output, the United Nations' food agency said Thursday.

"Continued civil unrest in the Syrian Arab Republic since mid-March 2011 has raised serious concern over the state of food security, particularly for vulnerable groups," the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said.

The agency said that last year's cereal production in Syria -- estimated at 4.2 million tonnes -- was about 10 percent less than the previous five years' average, following late and erratic rains and widespread civil unrest.

"In several areas, it is reported that civil insecurity prevented farmers to access their farmland during the harvest," it said.

"The World Food Programme (WFP) estimated in 2010 that about 1.4 million food insecure were living in areas which have now become conflict hotspots such as Homs, Hama, rural Damascus, Daraa and Idleb," the FAO said Thursday.

"The concern is that they now have become even more vulnerable," it said.

Tens of thousands of people have already fled to neighbouring countries and access to food, water and fuel is reported to have become increasingly difficult in several areas, the FAO said.

Syria, which relies on food imports for almost half of its domestic use, should import around 4.0 million tonnes of wheat for food use and maize and barley for feed -- about 1 million tonnes more than the previous year, it said.

"An estimated 300,000 small farmers and herders in northeastern provinces, who have already suffered four consecutive seasons of drought, are also affected by the loss of opportunities from seasonal labour migration to the south and east," the FAO said.

"In addition, the unrest is affecting pastoralists by restricting mobility of herds, with negative effects on access to water and pasture, and reducing access to veterinary drugs and other supplies," it added.

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