Security has considerably improved in many parts of the country, which is facilitating the return of IDPs to their respective places of origin.
Crop production: Despite improved access to agricultural land in some areas, production of wheat and barley declined sharply in 2018 compared to the previous year due to erratic weather. At 1.2 million tonnes, wheat production was the lowest since 1989 and about 30 percent of the preconflict average of 4.1 million tonnes (2002-2011). At 390 000 tonnes, barley production was the lowest since 2008. Large areas of rainfed cereals failed because of an extended dry period early in the season, and irrigated cereal yields were reduced because of unseasonably late heavy rains and high temperatures.
Main agricultural constraints: High production costs, lack of quality inputs and damaged or destroyed infrastructure remain the main constraints. Some progress was made on reconstruction of irrigation infrastructure and improved transport of farm inputs and produce. Given this year’s poor cereal harvest, seed is very likely to be in extremely short supply for the coming season (starting from October 2018).
Livestock: Over the past three years, the herd sizes have stabilized albeit at a very low level. The main challenges continue to be high fodder prices and insufficient coverage of veterinary services.
Sheep breeders are keen to reduce their flocks in response to high feed costs, although buyers are few.
Humanitarian access: There is a major shift in humanitarian access compared to the previous years. The number of people residing in hard to reach locations declined from 4.1 million in January 2017 to 1.5 million people in July 2018. Similarly, the number of people in formerly besieged areas decreased from 643 800 to none. These locations represent a high human and economic cost, as they were exposed to heavy fighting and widespread destruction.
Displacement: Population displacement continues to be the main driver of food insecurity in the country. Currently there are about 6.2 million internally displaced people, including 1.3 million displacements of people since January 2018, some of them several times. The largest number of IDPs within the country is hosted in Rural Damascus, followed by Idleb and Aleppo.
Returns: About 963 600 IDPs have returned to their places of origin, 58 percent more people compared to 2017. Furthermore, 23 400 refugees also returned to the Syrian Arab Republic from neighbouring countries.
Markets and trade: Market access and trade has considerably improved due to the revival of important trade routes across the country, which had been disrupted since 2013. Access to markets remains severely constrained in Idleb and south Deir-ez-Zor. Furthermore, the war-ravaged infrastructure like silos, milling plants, warehouses and factories has not been rehabilitated throughout the country.
Price trends: Improved security, stability and the re-opening of supply routes have led to reductions in food prices. Since the peak in December 2016, the average price of a WFP equivalent standard food basket has fallen by 40 percent. The difference between the highest and lowest average food prices has dropped by half, indicating better market integration across the Syrian Arab Republic. It must be noted that commodity prices are still extremely high, about seven times higher than the five-year pre-crisis average.
Livelihood trends: Lack of employment, resulting in low purchasing power, is the main economic challenge faced by the majority of households. IDPs reported working multiple jobs and resorting to child labour as commonly employed coping strategies to meet their needs. Women have become the bread winners for many families where men are not present. Given the vast extent of the destruction in both urban and rural areas, major investments will be required to rebuild livelihoods in the coming years.
Food consumption and coping: Despite overall improvements in access for food, about a quarter of the households continue to rely on poor quality and quantity diets. Food security monitoring data show that some 44 percent of households reduced the number of meals consumed and more than 35 percent restricted consumption of adults to prioritize children. The situation is more difficult among IDPs, returnees and households headed by women.
Food security trends and assistance needs: The Mission estimates that 5.5 million Syrians are food insecure and require some form of food assistance. In addition, as many as 500 000 to 800 000 may be food insecure in Idleb.