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Rising food prices put Syrians in hunger: UN humanitarian chief
update:June 30,2020
UNITED NATIONS, June 30,2020 -- Rising food prices are putting Syrians at the risk of food insecurity, said UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock on Monday.
Prices of food, medicines, fuel and other essential commodities are soaring across the country. The volatile exchange rate has seen the Syrian pound lose more value in the last six months than in the first nine years of the crisis, Lowcock told the Security Council.
This month the Syrian Central Bank adjusted the official exchange rate from 704 pounds to 1,256 pounds against the U.S. dollar, a 78 percent devaluation. The unofficial rate fell to its lowest point on record, at 3,120 pounds against the dollar, he said.
Food prices have consequently reached unprecedented levels. Market monitoring by the World Food Programme (WFP) shows a 200 percent increase in the price of the national average food basket since last year, he noted.
A growing number of Syrians are no longer able to provide for themselves and their families. Many report going into debt and eating less to survive, said Lowcock.
The WFP estimates 9.3 million Syrians to be food insecure. This is the highest level ever recorded in Syria, and it is increasing, he said.
An estimated 4.6 million children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are in need of nutrition assistance. Some 3.7 million of them are in acute need. Almost half a million children under five suffer from stunting, a condition likely to impact irreversibly their physical and cognitive development, he said.
"Across the country, people who have struggled through nine years of devastating conflict are telling us that they have now reached a breaking point."
Lowcock welcomed the public assurances by the United States and by the European Union that their sanctions programs relating to Syria neither ban the flow of humanitarian supplies, nor target medicines and medical devices. He reiterated the UN secretary-general's appeal for the waiving of sanctions that can undermine countries' capacity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
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