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Research Report

Fitting aid to context:: community experiences of aid delivery in northern Syria

Deborah Cummins
Sarah Moharram
Copyright Date: Jul. 1, 2017
Pages: 52
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 6-10)

    With the Syrian conflict now in its seventh year, 13.5 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance. Data from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that in 2016, 85 per cent of Syrians lived in poverty, of which 69 per cent lived in extreme poverty with less than US$2 per day, and 35 per cent lived in abject poverty with no access to the minimum food requirements for survival (OCHA 2017). Household incomes have been rapidly diminishing along with livelihood opportunities, while prices have been steadily increasing. As a result, many families are...

  2. (pp. 11-13)

    With the disruption that the Syrian conflict has brought, the basic shape of the local urban economies of Darkoush and Salquin has changed. Income and sources of income have changed significantly, ways of doing business have changed, and community members’ capacity to buy and sell goods and services have changed. Prices for basic household necessities have risen steeply, and the value of the Syrian pound (SYP) against the US dollar (US$) has plummeted. Public services have largely ceased functioning, factories and industrial plants have shut down, and electricity and water supplies have been cut off. Trading routes into government-controlled territory...

  3. (pp. 14-21)

    When asked to estimate changes in the major sources of income for their community, survey responses indicated a clear shift in community income since 2011. As indicated in figures 2, 3, 4 and 5, before the Syrian conflict the major sources of community income were public-sector jobs and larger businesses, with Salquin also receiving significant tourist income. However, since the crisis began this has changed dramatically, shifting mainly to self-employment, and, to a lesser extent, to the private sector.

    The impact of remittances in Darkoush and Salquin appears to be quite small, as not a single respondent out of the...

  4. (pp. 22-26)

    It is in this context of economic shock and adaptation that INGOs have been providing aid to people in northern Syria. In Darkoush and Salquin, INGOs Goal and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) have been implementing aid programmes since 2012 and 2013, when the area came under the control of the opposition forces.108 The focus of these programmes has been to meet the immediate shortterm needs of community members who have not been able to bridge the gap between income and expenditure. This has been mainly in the form of in-kind support – that is, the delivery of basic items...

  5. (pp. 27-30)

    It has been noted in other studies that food baskets in particular can have serious distortionary effects on local markets, effectively creating parallel markets that compete with local providers (Smith and Mohiddin 2015). As early as the 1970s, a research study in India noted the damaging impact of food aid in lowering prices and undercutting domestic food production (Isenman and Singer 1977). In South Sudan and northern Mali it was noted that the delivery of in-kind aid has pushed local suppliers out of business by substantially reducing market prices (Idris 2016). In Pakistan, markets were overwhelmed by the provision of...

  6. (pp. 31-32)

    One of the difficulties with humanitarian aid work is that while there are many lessons of what not to do, it is difficult to find clear answers going forward. By its very nature, humanitarian aid delivery is complex. And particularly in a conflict zone, the stakes of getting it wrong are high.

    Nonetheless, it seems clear that the current imbalanced emphasis on in-kind food aid is causing real problems in the cities of Darkoush and Salquin, and more generally in opposition-controlled northern Syria, failing to meet beneficiaries’ real needs, causing market distortion, and creating dependent local economies. While there are,...