Bureau régional de la FAO pour le Proche-Orient et l’Afrique du Nord

FAO and the UN family hail Kuwait’s aid to improve livelihood of vulnerable people in Syria

Syrian farmers prepare to carry the wheat seed they received from FAO with funds from Kuwait. ©FAO/Sheam Kaheel

Kuwait and Cairo, 2 July 2020 - Amid a continuing crisis of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the international community grows concerns about its impact on people across Syria, whose livelihood and resilience have been decimated by almost a decade of war. However, with the efforts of the United Nation’s member countries, a glimpse of hope is always there within the most vulnerable communities affected by conflict and crises. The voluntarily and broad support from a handful of United Nations’ member states is the backbone for humanitarian aid to countries in need.

In that context, Dr. Tarek Elsheikh, the Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General and Resident Coordinator for Kuwait and Mr. Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, Regional Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for the Near East and North Africa have praised and welcomed the Government of Kuwait’s continuous and generous humanitarian aid to the people of Syria and other vulnerable communities in the Middle East.

Dr. Tarek El Sheikh acknowledged the UN-bestowed status of Kuwait, as an International Humanitarian Center. “Kuwait sat up a role model for response to the humanitarian emergencies in Syria and other parts of the world throughout the recent months, in a statement of its content to help countries in crises anywhere on the planet”, he stated.

“Like many other countries in crisis, the consequences of COVID-19 control measures in Syria are impacting the agriculture sector. The accessibility to markets is reduced, leading to higher prices for inputs, including seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, fuel and labor. The generous Kuwaiti contribution came at a time for us to address and tackle these impacts. However, there’s always more we can do”, Ould Ahmed stated, thanking the Government of Kuwait for its latest donation of $3 million.

The State of Kuwait and FAO: Restoring livelihoods

Since August 2019, Kuwait’s generous contribution helped FAO assist 18 000 highly vulnerable people and their extended families in Syria through the provision of quality agricultural inputs, such as cereal and vegetable seeds, irrigation kits and feed for their animals, combined with training on good agricultural practices.

By reaching 8,500 farming families in Daraa, As-Sweida and Hama governorates with wheat and seasonal vegetable seed, farmers will be harvesting tomatoes, eggplants and cucumber by mid-July. Rehabilitating of two fodder nurseries, will benefit about 10 000 small-scale livestock herders and contribute to feeding availability for their animals at Al Badia in Hama and Deir Ez-Zor governorates. The intervention will also help to restore natural grazing areas in these locations.

FAO and Kuwait have collaborated to improve the most vulnerable farmers’ living situation by providing improved wheat seed. Each farmer received 200 kg seed, enough to plant a one-hectare plot of land. The enhanced security situation from September 2019 allowed a large number of farmers to return to their lands and resume their activities. Yet, they lacked access to agriculture inputs and needed to find good quality seed if they were to go ahead with cultivation.

More broadly, Kuwait and FAO are increasingly working together to fight hunger and malnutrition, and come to the aid of disaster-stricken communities in the NENA region and beyond, in countries such as Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria.

A multi-layered economic crisis

According to a recently published situation report:

  1. The humanitarian needs in Syria became more critical amid impacts of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
  2.  The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly movement restrictions and curfews, are likely to worsen the food security and livelihoods situation significantly.
  3. These implications added to conflict, displacement, returns, limited livelihood opportunities as drivers of a major economic crisis following the collapse of the Syrian Pound.
  4. The number of food-insecure people is anticipated to increase in 2020 due to the lack of livelihood opportunities and high food prices despite a positive forecast for cereal production. Though there remains a lack of functional agricultural infrastructure that continues to constrain production, the 2020 cereal production projection is favorable.

A total of 9.3 million people are facing severe and acute food insecurity, and an additional 1.9 million people are at risk of food insecurity. The number of internally displaced people (IDP) rose to 6.2 million, the largest population of IDPs in the world. Concurrently, displaced people have begun to return to their land and are facing severe challenges in resuming their production.

Returnees in Syria require support, including the provision of agricultural inputs, infrastructure rehabilitation and veterinary services. "Without the adequate support, returnees could be forced to leave their land again, and that puts unwanted pressure on Syria's economy and livelihood of its people. Partnerships are essential in our efforts to reverse the impact of COVID-19 and make sure vulnerable people are not left behind" Ould Ahmed emphasized.

The report added that of the USD 155 million requested for 2020 to assist 11.72 million people in Syria, FAO still requires USD 141 million, including in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last but not least, Dr Tarek Elsheikh, concluded by thanking the state of Kuwait for their continuous support to the Syrian cause and Syrian refugees, and for their participation to the 4th  Brussels Conference on "Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region" co-hosted by the European Union and the United Nations, where $7.7 billion  was pledged for humanitarian aid by around 60 governments and non-state actors, to help ease the challenges of the war-town country faced by  additional shock of the coronavirus pandemic.