A different sort of aid for Syria?

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Given the brutality that has come to characterise Syria’s four-year war, it is understandable that discussion of the conflict has focused on violent deaths. But there is another scourge destroying lives in the country: economic ruin and crippling poverty – what a UN-backed report called “an equally horrendous but silent disaster.”

Some aid organisations and policy experts are finding that with more than four out of five Syrians in poverty, traditional humanitarian aid, while necessary, just isn’t enough. So they’re advocating for, and implementing, livelihood projects – intervention to assist people’s abilities to support themselves.

One of these is the Danish Refugee Council. As Peter Klanso, DRC Middle East and North Africa director, told IRIN: “You cannot have an entire population that is dependent on humanitarian aid. That doesn’t make any sense.”

Crippling poverty

In the country’s northeast, once known as Syria’s breadbasket, agricultural production has dropped sharply, and farmers have been battered from all sides.

Displacement caused by shifting frontlines has resulted in missed harvest and planting seasons – in total 6.6 Syrians have been internally displaced by the violence inside their country. People who returned to areas vacated by the so-called Islamic State, for example, have come home to neglected soil and couldn’t afford seeds. Read more