UN Seeks Drought Aid for Syria

Officials trying to earmark $20.2 million to help country deal with its worst drought in four decades.

By THE MEDIA LINE NEWS AGENCY/RACHELLE KLIGER
October 5, 2008 14:00
2 minute read.
UN aid to palestinians 298.88 ap

UN aid to palestinians 2. (photo credit: AP)

 
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TThe United Nations is appealing for aid to help Syria deal with the country's worst drought in four decades. The UN is asking for $20.2 million to be allocated, mainly for herders and farmers whose livelihood has been damaged because of inconsistent of insufficient rainfalls. The Syrian government estimates that up to one million people are at risk of losing their livelihoods and suffering from malnutrition, according to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The average yield of basic crops has fallen, up to 59,000 herders have lost their herds and 47,000 herders have lost between half and 60 percent of their livestock. The appeal is to governments and non-governmental organizations to help the affected people for a period of six months. Damascus is distributing emergency assistance, but the required assistance is beyond its resources, OCHA said. In addition, food prices have risen, Syrians' purchasing power has decreased and there are increasing signs of malnutrition among vulnerable populations such as children and pregnant women. The availability of drinking water has also decreased in the rural areas of north-east Syria, OCHA said, particularly in villages depending on protected wells as their sole source of water. The situation will be compounded if the upcoming winter does not bring adequate rainfall. Syria is not the only country in the region suffering from lack of water. Due to low rainfalls in the usually wet period from March to May, an estimated 14.5 people in the Horn of Africa are in need of assistance, according to the World Food Programme. The affected countries include Ethiopia, Uganda, Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti. And in Israel, the country's largest freshwater lake has dropped to its lowest ever recorded water level. The Sea of Galilee currently stands at 214.06 meters below sea level. The Syrian government has offered to support some 29,000 families in the eastern region by providing financial support to small enterprises, exempting farmers from interest on loans and providing farmers with cereal seeds and fertilizers. But not only farmers are being affected by the drought. "It's also affecting those who breed livestock and people working for farmers in harvesting and transporting crops," said Lina Ibrahim, a journalist with the Syria Report. Ibrahim told The Media Line that the knock-on effect was a rise in unemployment in the country and migration from remote areas to the larger cities. Ongoing campaigns on television and in newspapers are urging Syrians to conserve water, but there are no new campaigns as a result of the specific current water crisis, Ibrahim said. The Media Line website.

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