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UN humanitarian chief warns of economic impact of COVID-19 in Syria
BY 2020-05-20 14:11:21

UNITED NATIONS, May 19 (Xinhua) -- UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock on Tuesday voiced concern over increasing food insecurity in Syria as COVID-19 is making an impact on the economy of the war-torn country.

The added impact of the pandemic is now driving food insecurity to record levels: the World Food Programme announced last week that an estimated 9.3 million people in Syria are now food insecure, up from an estimated 7.9 million people six months ago, said Lowcock.

"As in many other countries, we are seeing the economic impact of the pandemic before we see infections peak: after an initial jump at the end of March, the average price of the national reference food basket for April is 15 percent higher than the March average, and more than double the average recorded in April 2019. It is now higher than at any time since the crisis began," he told the Security Council.

In the northwest, a region that relies heavily on imported goods, the Syrian pound continues to lose value against the U.S. dollar. The exchange rate in some parts of Idlib has fallen as low as 1,950 to the U.S. dollar, he said.

That is a depreciation of 54 percent since the end of April. The cost of a dollar has more than trebled in the last 12 months. The consequences of this for local communities' purchasing power are severe, he warned.

In early 2020, before the economic impacts of COVID-19 were felt in Syria, an estimated 80 percent of people already lived below the poverty line, he noted.

Lowcock asked for the waiver of sanctions that can undermine the capacity of countries to ensure access to food, essential health supplies and medical support to respond to COVID-19.

"I note the public assurances by relevant states that their sanctions programs relating to Syria neither ban the flow of humanitarian supplies nor target medicine and medical devices. I welcome their commitments to fully and expeditiously apply humanitarian exemptions. I continue to follow this issue closely," said Lowcock. 

(Editor:Grace) (From:xinhua)
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