Syria: Drought - 2021-2022


Disaster description

Since autumn 2020, unseasonably low levels of rainfall across the eastern region of the Mediterranean Basin, have contributed to drought conditions in Syria and Iraq. Given the country's semi-arid climate, the annual water balance is determined by precipitation patterns between October and April and pronounced seasonal rainfall, with deficits accumulated enduring for the remainder of the year. In Syria, poor precipitation during the 2020/2021 winter season, as well as the months critical for crop development (January-April), have negatively impacted several governorates in the northeast, with Al-Hasakeh – typically the breadbasket of the country – particularly badly affected ... Syria currently ranks seventh on a global risk index of 191 countries most at risk of a humanitarian or natural disaster event that could overwhelm response capacity, in part due to the ongoing crisis which hinders adequate preparedness measures. With temperatures in the Mediterranean basin predicted to increase in the coming years, and water scarcity expected to persist, extreme climatic events such as drought are likely to become more frequent and intense. Of the nine countries rated as ‘very high risk’, Syria is the third highest at risk of drought. (OCHA, 27 Jun 2021)

Since April/May 2021, the humanitarian situation in northeastern Aleppo as well as Deir-ez-Zor, Al-Hasakeh and Ar-Raqqa Governorates has deteriorated further due to significantly reduced water availability and access, as a result of the following climatic and man-made factors[...]The overall deterioration in people’s living standards is aggravating multiple, pre-existing protection needs and risks, threatening social cohesion and encouraging more widespread adoption of harmful coping mechanisms, including amongst an estimated 289,000 IDPs (internally displaced people) living in ‘last resort sites’ in NES. (OCHA, 9 Sep 2021)

The number of people that are food insecure and in acute need of humanitarian assistance increased by 400,000 during the first half of 2021 bringing the total number to 12.8 million people, an increase of more than 60% compared to 2021. According to the FAO, Syrian farmers face challenges preparing for the upcoming planting season due to lack of liquidity and access to credit, while prices of inputs such as fertilizers and fuel are increasing. Furthermore, access to seeds will likely be difficult and seed quality poor with low germination rates due to the drastically reduced 2020/2021 harvest. This impacts in particular small-scale farmers that lack alternative livelihoods income sources and continue to cultivate their lands. (IFRC, 20 Oct 2021)

Already weakened by 10 years of conflict, the economy suffered further setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic and spill-over effects from the economic crisis in Lebanon, long a lifeline of the Syrian economy. High inflation rates, weakening currency and shortages of basic products, including fuel, prevail. International sanctions have generally affected livelihoods of millions of Syrians, directly or indirectly. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), more than 12.4 million people (60 percent of the population) were food insecure in 2020, 5.4 million more than in 2019. The food security situation has continued to worsen in 2021. Insufficient and poorly distributed rainfall in the 2020/21 agricultural season, together with several heatwaves, the high cost of inputs, limited availability of irrigation water and high cost of fuel for pumping, resulted in a contraction of the harvestable cereal area. (FAO, 17 Dec 2021)

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