Syria — Millions Below Poverty Line, U.S. Tightens Sanctions

  • The World Food Program (WFP) said in Geneva that the number of people lacking basic foodstuffs has increased by 1.4 million over the past six months.
  • Akjmal Magtimova, WHO representative in Syria, says that more than 90 percent of the Syrian population lives below the poverty line.
  • The "Caesar Act" comes into force to constitute the latest US measures against the Syrian regime.

United Nations relief agencies warned Friday that Syria is facing an unprecedented food crisis, as more than 9.3 million people lack adequate food. This comes at a time when the outbreak of the Coronavirus may accelerate in the country, although it appears to be under control.

The World Food Programme is the food-assistance branch of the United Nations and the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security. According to the WFP, it provides food assistance to an average of 91.4 million people in 83 countries each year.

The World Food Program (WFP) said in Geneva that the number of people lacking basic foodstuffs has increased by 1.4 million over the past six months. “The official numbers represent a likely underestimate of the true numbers, and that’s not unique to Syria at all,” said Richard Brennan, the WHO’s a regional emergency director.

“After a slow start, COVID-19 outbreaks in Iraq, Egypt, and Turkey accelerated and the same is expected in Syria,” he said. Brennan added:

“What we do know in Syria is you don’t have an explosive outbreak, you can’t cover up, you can’t miss an explosive outbreak. The health facilities are not overwhelmed, so this is why we still have an opportunity to scale up our preparedness to blunt and mitigate the worst of the outbreak.”

In a separate statement, Akjmal Magtimova, WHO representative in Syria, says that more than 90 percent of the Syrian population lives below the poverty line of $2 a day, and the humanitarian needs are increasing.

Less than half of the public hospitals in Syria are still operating, while half of the medical workers have fled since the start of the conflict, and the rest face permanent threats of kidnapping. Syria has been at war for more than nine years.

The Caesar Act in Syria

The “Caesar Act” comes into force to constitute the latest US measures against the Syrian regime, accused of widespread violations during the nine years of the war. Sanctions are not new to Syria, as American and European measures alike targeted their economic capabilities years ago.

The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, also known as the Caesar Act, is a United States legislation that sanctions the Syrian government, including Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, for war crimes against the Syrian population. The bill has not been passed into law. Instead, parts of it were incorporated in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, making it unlikely that the original bill will be revisited.

Various companies, businessmen, and sectors were affected by and subject to these sanctions. However, the new law broadens the targeting circle to extend its arms as well. It includes several areas, from construction to oil and gas. Syrian officials, every foreign person who deals with the Syrian government, and even Russian and Iranian entities in Syria are also targeted.

The law provides for special measures to be taken against the Syrian Central Bank if it is established as a “basic financial institution in money laundering operations.” Edward Dehnert, of The Economist research and information unit, says that “the United States has yet to clarify where and to what extent sanctions will be applied, but it is safe to say that the real estate, construction, energy, and infrastructure sectors will be particularly affected.”

Washington requires several measures to lift sanctions, according to the law. Among these, the regime will have to hold the perpetrators of war crimes accountable, stop the bombing of civilians, release political detainees, and return refugees to the country.

As a result, the law will suffice with “obstructing the regime’s and its allies’ ability to take advantage of the economic opportunities that the costly reconstruction process will provide.” Washington will succeed in its endeavors.

Sanctions are designed to keep the Assad regime outcast, and their threat to take punitive steps will be sufficient to frighten most foreign investment flows. Without foreign investment and support, Damascus will struggle to launch reconstruction.

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Doris Mkwaya

I am a journalist, with more than 12 years of experience as a reporter, author, editor, and journalism lecturer." I've worked as a reporter, editor and journalism lecturer, and am very enthusiastic about bringing what I've learned to this site.  

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