An estimated 1.3 million people are suffering from a three-year drought that has caused widespread loss of agriculture, livestock, and livelihoods throughout the eastern part of the country. Of those affected, it is estimated that more than 800,000 have lost all sources of income and now face extreme economic hardship. At the request of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society (SARC), and with funding from the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM), International Medical Corps is distributing food and hygiene items to 2,100 families who have been badly impacted by the disaster.
A recent assessment by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies found that villagers are selling their belongings in order to buy food. Children up to three years old were also found to be lacking in nutrients, such as protein, that are critical for healthy growth. Education likewise has been compromised because of the drought with parents withdrawing their children from school so they can work and contribute to household income.
“Despite considerable efforts undertaken by the Syrian Government to assist drought-affected populations, much still needs to be done. The cyclical nature of the drought has not only affected access to water and food, but it also sparked migration, as many men have left Syria to neighboring countries, like Iraq, Turkey, and Lebanon in search of work.” says Malika Mirkhanova, International Medical Corps desk officer for the Middle East. “International Medical Corps is distributing food and non-food items to vulnerable families, but there are still considerable needs, such as improving water supply and providing health and nutrition services.”
The drought has also sparked mass migration into urban centers in western Syria, particularly Damascus. Up to 60,000 families are believed to have moved, placing severe strain on the communities where they resettled. International Medical Corps provides health care services to approximately 50,000 people in and around Damascus. As the only American medical NGO working in Syria, International Medical Corps partnered with SARC to increase health care services for vulnerable populations, including Iraqi refugees and, now, victims of the ongoing drought.