Drought threatens to compound Syrian woes

Millions of Syrians are facing a major drought that could cut wheat production and drive more people to cross the border if there is no rainfall

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The warn-torn Syria is on the brink of another disaster as the World Food Program warned on Tuesday that the country was facing a drought that could put millions of people's lives at risk, compounding the impact of years of war.

The drought threatens to cut wheat production in the country's northwestern breadbasket to a record low of 1.7 million to 2 million metric tons, according to World Food Program (WFP) spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs.

If rains fail to fall by the time of the harvest in mid-May, food prices would soar and Syria would need to import more than the estimated 5.1 million tons of wheat needed during the previous season, WFP added.

“WFP is concerned about the impact of a looming drought hitting the northwest of the country -- mainly Aleppo, Idlib, and Hama -- with rainfall less than half of the long-term average and potentially major impacts on the next cereal harvest,” Byrs said.

“This could put the lives of millions at risk if the drought continues,” she told reporters.

Up to 6.5 million Syrians could need emergency rations, up from the current figure of 4.2 million, Byrs said.

The WFP, which reached a record 4.1 million people with food rations in March, said on Monday that it had to cut the size of food parcels to hungry Syrians due to a shortage of funds from donors.

Syria was last hit by a major drought in 2008, three years before the country slid into a civil war that has killed more than 150,000 people and driven nine million from their homes, including the 2.6 million refugees who have fled abroad.

The U.N.'s refugee agency said Tuesday that the numbers crossing the border could rise if there is no rainfall in the country.

(With AFP and Reuters)