ABU DHABI // An aid group backed by the UAE and other countries is feeding Syrian families as the civil war raises the price of bread by up to 1,000 per cent.
In April, the Syria Recovery Trust Fund received Dh56 million to fund projects that put bread on as many tables as possible by supporting farmers, flour mills and bakeries in Aleppo, Idlib and Daraa governorates.
“We have sought to maintain a continuous, cost-effective supply of food by supporting the bread production cycle,” said Hani Khabbaz, director general of the fund. As part of its projects, the SRTF gives hessian sacks to wheat farmers to safely transport and store their grains.
It provides 12,500 tonnes of imported wheat, which is mixed with the locally produced grain to lower production costs.
Mills have been bought and set up using money from the SRTF, providing flour for the local bakeries.
As a result of its work, Mr Khabbaz said bread production had increased and the price dropped by almost 50 per cent, benefiting 120,000 Syrians daily. The SRTF believes this will increase to 200,000 this year.
Syrian expatriate Rami, who has been making regular trips to his homeland from Abu Dhabi since the crisis began more than five years ago, has been shocked by the high cost of food – when it is available.
“Prices have really increased. It has become very expensive,” said Rami, who comes from a village in an area that has escaped much of the violence. “In many areas affected by the war, food is not very available.”
The UN’s World Food Programme said bread prices in Syria had risen by up to 1,000 per cent in the hardest hit areas.
Aid agencies and charities have reported shortages across the country and Syria now has to import food – a drastic change from before the war, when the country was largely self-sustaining, with a thriving agricultural sector.
But the fund’s success hasn’t come without challenges. There is a constant struggle with security and keeping equipment properly maintained.
To ensure the conflict does not get too close, some of the flour mills are mobile – a feature Mr Khabbaz said helped recently when an armed group threatened to take one of the SRTF’s mills.
In less than two days, the mill was taken apart and moved to a safer place.
During the conflict, NGOs have lashed out at Syrian government forces for dropping bombs on bakeries. Civilians waiting for bread in long queues have also been targeted.
Files obtained from ISIL by German media were said to include a plan on how to take control of one of the largest flour mills in northern Syria, further highlighting the importance of bread in the conflict.
“If we are able to supply bread, produced at a reasonable price people can afford, only then have we achieved security,” said Mr Khabbaz.
Source: uae news