A new Mercy Corps report highlights the impact of the war in Ukraine on agriculture, food security, energy, and transportation in six Middle East countries (Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq), warning that communities across the region are likely to face heightened rates of food insecurity, deepening dependence on aid, and political destabilization if there is little or no intervention to combat soaring food and fuel prices.
Report findings include:
In Yemen, the cost of flour has risen by 42%, bread by 25%, cooking oil by 62.8%, and sugar by 35.7% between January and May 2022, worsening an already alarming food security situation. In both Sana’a and Aden, 100 YER will now buy only three loaves of bread instead of four. Humanitarian organizations have seen a 20% increase in the survival minimum expenditure basket, the monetary threshold families require to meet their essential needs. Increasing fertilizer prices may undermine efforts to encourage farmers to grow crops that can meet nutritional needs as they turn to high-yield, high-profit crops like Qat.
In Lebanon, low-income households will go hungry if bread and other staple foods remain in low supply across the country, due to black market diversion and hoarding. Fuel is now beyond the reach of many people and Lebanon’s electricity crisis is set to worsen as fuel prices increase. Critical services such as water and telecommunications will likely deteriorate over the summer, with rising temperatures placing additional strain on electricity demand. Poverty, tensions and outward migration are all expected to increase.
In Syria, flour allocations to public bakeries in Aleppo City have been reduced by 25% since March, by 50% in Tafas, and by 20% in rural Damascus, forcing citizens to turn to private bakeries for bread supplies, which have increased in price by 94%. For every 1% increase in diesel prices in northwest Syria, unsubsidized bread prices increase by 1.27%, bulgur increases by 1.12%, and wheat flour increases by 0.26%. Fuel costs increased by 40% across the country and reserves in the northwest are limited to one to two months, largely due to insufficient storage facilities. Arnaud Quemin, Mercy Corps' Middle East Regional Director, says:
“Countries across the Middle East were already facing ongoing conflict, political instability, economic turmoil, climate impacts and mismanagement of natural resources. The war in Ukraine is pushing people deeper into hunger, poverty and reliance on aid, and humanitarian organizations will be unable to address soaring needs without significant financial commitments from the international community. Increased support for agriculture programs, small farmers and larger agribusinesses that can boost local food supplies is the only way to lessen a regional dependency on food imports.”
Mercy Corps has worked in the Middle East since 1986, including in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Yemen, to help refugees and people living in conflict-affected areas meet their most urgent needs while building more resilient, economically sufficient and peaceful communities.