Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems

Covid-19 causes hunger crisis for Syrian refugees

Travel restrictions, loss of livelihoods and rising food prices caused by the coronavirus outbreak are affecting Syrian refugees in border regions in the Middle East.

Displaced Syrians are facing a potential hunger crisis as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, preliminary findings from a study in the region have shown.

Movement restrictions and rising prices caused by disease prevention strategies have left many refugees unable to work and with no income.

The outcomes form part of a study into the impact of Covid-19 on Syrian refugees, by a collaboration involving researchers from the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security.

Family surveys

Between April and June 2020, displaced Syrians in Jordan, Turkey, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and northern Syria were surveyed to assess the impact of Covid-19 on their food security and agricultural livelihoods.

About 40 Syrian families took part in WhatsApp questionnaires and digital food diaries, carried out by Syrian, Lebanese and Jordanian data collectors who speak the local language.

Most displaced Syrians are affected by price hikes for basic foods – some of which have doubled in price – and increased cost or limited availability of public transport, which often prevents travel for farm or market workers.

Almost four-fifths of respondents report working fewer hours, and the same proportion have lost income since the outbreak began.

The crisis exacerbates poor working and living conditions that have endured for almost a decade owing to civil war and a collapsing economy, and puts at risk survival strategies in the informal economy that have enabled people to cope until now.

Researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen are involved in the project, with partners from the Council for At-Risk Academics Syria Programme.

The study is supported by the Scottish Funding Council and the UK Research and Innovation Global Challenges Research Fund.

Findings from the ongoing project will help clarify the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on UN Sustainable Development Goals in humanitarian settings.

They will aid efforts by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to include Syrian refugees in response measures to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Covid-19 may not be widespread among Syrian communities in the Middle East, but its effects are, leaving many with no income and unable to cope with price hikes for food and transport. This puts added pressure on a society already struggling from economic collapse and civil war.

Professor Lisa BodenGlobal Academy for Agriculture and Food Security

Related links

Food Security in Fragile and Conflict Affected States

Read more in Covid-19 Perspectives – a University of Edinburgh blog

Read more in Routed Magazine

Read more in the Corona Times blog