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Syria’s hunger crisis worsens, COVID outbreak could intensify: UN

The World Food Programme (WFP) told a briefing in Geneva that the number of people short of essential foodstuffs had risen by 1.4 million in the past six months.

Food prices had also soared by more than 200% in less than a year due to the freefall in neighbouring Lebanon’s economy and COVID-19 lockdown measures in Syria, WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said.

After nine years of armed conflict, more than 90% of Syria’s population lives under the $2 per day poverty line and humanitarian needs are growing, Akjemal Magtymova, the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in Syria, told a separate briefing.

Fewer than half of Syria’s public hospitals are functional, while half of the medical workforce has fled since the conflict began, she said, with those remaining facing a “pervasive threat of kidnapping and targeted killings”.

Authorities have reported 248 coronavirus infections, including 9 deaths in government-held areas.

“The official numbers represent a likely underestimate of the true numbers, and that’s not unique to Syria at all,” said Richard Brennan, WHO’s 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.

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