“This is part of a wider pattern of drier
than average conditions which has dominated across the eastern
Mediterranean from southern Turkey to western Syria, Lebanon and
Jordan”, says the WFP.
With other agencies, it is trying to look
after the food needs of more than four million people displaced by the
fighting in Syria. It says the drought could mean that number increasing
to more than six million. A poor harvest will also lead to yet more
increases in food prices.
The present period of drought hitting
Syria and the wider region – including large parts of Iraq – started in
2008: dry conditions persisted through 2009 and 2010. Despite heavy
snowfalls over the recent winter, water supplies in many reservoirs are
less than half their normal level.
“Going back to the last 100 years I don’t
think you can get a five-year span that’s been as dry “, Mohammad Rafi
Hossain, an environmental economist at the UN’s Food and Agriculture
Organisation (FAO) told Reuters news agency.
Many analysts say the drought - and a lack
of action by the Syrian authorities to halt soaring food prices - was
one of the factors driving the initial 2011 uprising against the regime
of Bashar al-Assad.
At special risk
With crops destroyed by lack of water,
desperate farmers and their families were forced to move to cities and
towns in search of work and food. There they combined with students and
other activists in large-scale protests against the Government.
The Syrian drought and the role played by
farmers in the protests against the Damascus regime form one of the
episodes in Years of Living Dangerously, a film series on climate change
starring several prominent Hollywood actors now being aired on cable TV
in the US.
The World Bank says the Middle East region
is particularly vulnerable to climate change. The UN’s Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and others have repeatedly warned that a
changing climate – particularly a "drying out" in some of the world’s
most productive agricultural regions – will lead to rapidly increasing
food prices and create serious social and political tensions.
Climate News Network