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Syria's Assad. Government efforts have not borne fruit Photo: AFP
Syria's Assad. Government efforts have not borne fruit Photo: AFP

Syria: 160 villages abandoned due to famine

Study conducted by Syrian government reveals poverty in country expanding. Some 3.5 million people have no income, peasants immigrating to cities in order to avoid food shortage

Doron Peskin
Published: 06.23.09, 08:31 / Israel Business

Some 700,000 households in Syria – about 3.5 million people - have no income. In other words, an average of one family of five in Syria leans on monthly governmental aid in order to survive, according to a comprehensive study conducted by the Social Affairs and Labor Ministry in Syria, whose main findings were published by the local al-Watan newspaper.


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Most supported families are living in conditions of poverty, as the governmental aid allows for minimal living conditions. According to Syrian law, a household is entitled to governmental aid if it is able to prove that both partners have no income during the year or a pension sufficient for basic living.


The study reveals that the main center of poverty is in northern Syria. In the Halab district, for example, there are 110,000 families in need of aid in order to survive. In Hasaka there are 87,000 such families, and in the Hamat province there are 68,000 such families.


The smallest number of needy families is in the Quneitra district, which borders with Israel, totalin 6,825 families.


Deterioration in poverty levels

The research findings stress the difficult economic challenge faced by the country's decision makers, and shows that the efforts made by the regime to deal with the poverty and unemployment problem have not borne fruit.


The past two years have seen a state of deterioration in the poverty levels in Syria due to the rise in the prices of oil and food products. According to estimates, the average income per person in Syria stands at some $250 a month.


The price hike has been joined in the past two years by a heavy drought. The Syrian government said last week that it would send out urgent shipments of food to drought-stricken areas, particularly in the Hasaka district.


These reports join a recent international report, which states that some 160 villages in northeastern Syria have been abandoned by their residents due to the food shortage. These villagers immigrate to the country's big cities, putting a great amount of pressure on the already shaky infrastructures in Syrian cities.


The Syrian development plan for the years 2006-2017 set a target of reducing poverty from 11.4% to 7% of the population, but its implementation is extremely weak at the moment.


Doron Peskin is head of research at Info-Prod Research (Middle East) Ltd.


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