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Rise in Food Prices Exacerbates Suffering in Syria

Rise in Food Prices Exacerbates Suffering in Syria

Wednesday, 29 April, 2020 - 05:15
A market in Damascus, Syria. (AFP)

Food prices in war-torn Syria have doubled in the past year to record levels, largely due to the Lebanese financial crisis and the novel coronavirus, the World Food Programme said Monday.


"Over the past 12 months, the price of WFP's reference food basket has on average increased by 107 percent across Syria," the UN agency said.


Syria's war has devastated the country's economy since it started in 2011, plunging 80 percent of its people into poverty, according to the UN.


It has hit "14 times the pre-crisis average and the highest ever recorded," WFP spokeswoman Jessica Lawson told AFP.


"The key factors for the increase in food prices over the past 12 months have been the Lebanese financial crisis and COVID-19," Lawson noted.


She also said the COVID-19 outbreak led to "heavy panic buying at the end of March 2020 as many consumers were worried that shops would shut."


Analysts say severe capital controls in Lebanon have contributed by hampering the influx of dollars to Syria.


This has led to devaluation and made key food imports -- such as vegetable oil, rice, wheat flour and sugar -- more expensive, according to WFP.


For its part, Syria's government has blamed Western sanctions for the economic crisis.


In Damascus, an AFP reporter said that over the past month a kilogramme of tomatoes had doubled in price from 500 to 1,000 Syrian pounds.


A bunch of mint or parsley was going for triple the price three months ago, he said.


In February, authorities in Damascus launched a smart card system to allow families to access a limited amount of sugar, rice and tea at a discount.


Damascus has officially announced 43 cases of the COVID-19 illness, including three deaths. The UN has announced one fatality in the northeast of the country.


The war has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions from their homes.


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