Photo of Salwa, 42 years old, who was displaced from Jdidet Al-Jabbar village and is now living in an IDP camp.
Amman, 24 February 2021 – Ten years into the crisis in Syria, many women report fear of instability, recurring violence, and displacement, coupled with a constant struggle to meet their families’ basic needs. In 2020, average food prices in Syria increased by 236%, making them more than 29 times higher than the five-year pre-crisis average. According to a new CARE report entitled, “If We Don’t Work, We Don’t Eat: Syrian Women Face Mounting Food Insecurity a Decade into The Conflict,” Syrian women overwhelmingly report food insecurity as an urgent, pressing issue for their households, with many families resorting to negative strategies, including eating fewer or smaller meals to get by.
Today, the number of food insecure Syrians has nearly doubled from 6.3 million in 2015 to 12.4 million today. Food prices in Syria are the highest recorded since WFP began tracking in 2013. Prior to the conflict, the five year (2006—2010) national average price of the WFP reference food basket was 3,700 SYP (almost 7 USD); today’s food basket is thirtyfold and costs 111,676 SYP (over 210 USD).– Much of Syria’s critical infrastructure—such as schools, housing, water systems, and health facilities—has yet to be restored and more than 80% of the population lives below the poverty line.
“As we arrive at the tragic 10-year mark of the conflict, Syrian women face their biggest challenges in securing food for their families. Instead of being on the path to recovery, the collapsing Syrian economy and soaring food prices have forced women to resort to selling belongings and cutting down on meals for their families to survive. At this crucial time, they need to be prioritized with emergency food assistance to protect them; they also require the means to make a living to lead dignified and independent lives,”
says Nirvana Shawky, Regional Director for CARE in the Middle East and North Africa.
Hana, a 24-year-old displaced woman in Idlib, says, “My children are growing tolerably but my little boy is malnourished. One of the organizations came to the camp and measured him and they told me that he was malnourished and had a developmental delay. They prescribed him milk and some vitamins, but I don't have the money to buy them.”
Syrian women are increasingly taking on the role of sole breadwinner, bearing the full burden of providing for their families with limited livelihood opportunities. About 22% of Syrian households are now headed by women; up from only 4% prior to the conflict. Women report they are pushed into the “provider” role in a way that most had not previously experienced, due to a lack of job opportunities for men; death, loss, or incapacity of a male head of household; rising costs of living; and low wages. In addition to providing for their households, most women report also shouldering caregiving responsibilities for children, parents, disabled spouses, or other family members.
Muna, a 44-year-old female head of household from Al-Hassakeh, says,
“I take care of my sick and elderly mother, in addition to my responsibility to raise sheep and take care of them, as they are my source of livelihood, do household work, secure food, and prepare it. One of my daily fears is the inability to provide bread, diesel, some foodstuffs, and most importantly, medicine, due to the lack of money sometimes.”
Ten years into this crisis, Syrian women continue to display tremendous strength and resilience. Though the role of breadwinner is new and unexpected for many, women have quickly adapted, are confident in their ability to lead and provide for their families, and are eager to do so. What they need now is both support and resources to lessen their dependency on aid and to access livelihoods to provide for themselves and their families. Given the opportunity to do so, they will continue to overcome the huge challenges of living in and around the ongoing conflict in Syria.
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Notes to editors:
- CARE is assisting vulnerable and displaced people in northern Syria by providing clean water, improved sanitation, and hygiene promotion. CARE is carrying out much-needed distributions of food baskets, hygiene kits, kitchen sets, and winter clothes. Additionally, CARE provides psychosocial support, including psychological first aid, to those immediately affected by the violence. Together with partners, CARE has developed programs which contribute to strengthening the resilience of communities affected by the crisis, providing families with early recovery and livelihood support.
- CARE has been providing aid in Syria since 2014, and has reached more than 5 million people so far. Our work is focused on food security, livelihoods, women’s economic empowerment, shelter, water and sanitation, maternal and reproductive health support, and psychosocial support for people in crisis.
- About CARE: Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty and providing lifesaving assistance in emergencies. In 104 countries around the world, CARE places special focus on working alongside poor girls and women because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to help lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. To learn more, visit www.care-international.org.
For media enquiries, please contact: Fatima Azzeh, Senior Communications Manager for the Syria Crisis, [email protected], +962 79 711 7414.
 World Food Programme (WFP) (December 2020). “Syria Situation Report #12.” https://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/wfp-syria-situation-report-12-december-2020
 WFP (October 2015). ‘Food Security Assessment Report, Syria.’ https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Syria%20Food%20Security%20Assessment%20Report%202015.pdf
 WFP (17 February 2021). ‘Twelve million Syrians now in the grip of hunger, worn down by conflict and soaring food prices.’ https://www.wfp.org/news/twelve-million-syrians-now-grip-hunger-worn-down-conflict-and-soaring-food-prices
 WFP (December 2020). ‘Syria Situation Report #12.’ https://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/wfp-syria-situation-report-12-december-2020
 The reference food basket is a group of essential food commodities tailored to the local context and designed to meet the nutritional requirements of the average family in a given country. In Syria, the food basket comprises a set of dry goods that provides 2,060 kcal a day for a family of five for a month. The basket includes 37 kilograms (kg) of bread, 19 kg of rice, 19 kg of lentils, 5 kg of sugar and 7 litres of vegetable oil. WFP (December 2020). ‘Syria Country Office Market Price Watch Bulletin, Issue 73.’ https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/WFP-0000122982.pdf
 WFP (June 2018). ‘Syria Market Assessment Part I: Lattakia, Tartous, and Homs.’ https://docs.wfp.org/api/documents/WFP-0000108309/download/
 WFP (December 2020). ‘Syria Country Office Market Price Watch Bulletin, Issue 73.’ https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/WFP-0000122982.pdf
 International Committee of the Red Cross (June 2020). ‘Syria: Economic crisis compounds conflict misery as millions face deeper poverty, hunger.’ https://www.icrcnewsroom.org/story/en/1920/syria-economic-crisis-compounds-conflict-misery-as-millions-face-deeper-poverty-hunger
 United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) (November 2020). ‘Regional Situation Report for the Syria Crisis, #99.’ https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/resource-pdf/UNFPA_Regional_Situation_Report_for_the_Syria_Crisis_-_Novermber_2020_-_FA.pdf
 CARE International (February 2020). ‘Supporting Resilience in Syria – Women's Experience of the Conflict and the “New Normal”.’ https://insights.careinternational.org.uk/media/k2/attachments/CARE-Policy-Brief_Supporting-resilience-in-Syria_Feb-2020.pdf