(Reuters) – The World Food Programme has begun distributing rations to 190,000 people in Eastern Syria but another 110,000 in the drought-hit region still require emergency food aid, the U.N. body said on Sunday.
Droughts over the last three years and mismanagement of water resources have reduced large swathes of Eastern Syria to a wasteland, forcing up to one million people to flee to the outskirts of Damascus and other cities.
That has put further pressure on already stretched infrastructure in Syria, a major farm and commodities player in the Middle East until droughts forced the government to stop exporting wheat in 2007.
A state wheat subsidies program increased in output but tens of thousands of illegal wells dug in the past decade to irrigate the crop have all but destroyed the water table.
Eastern Syria, which comprises the provinces of Hasakah, Deir al-Zor and Raqqa, grows most of Syria’s wheat and all of the 380,000 barrels of crude oil it produces per day.
Criticism of the central government’s neglect has risen, even from the state-controlled Peasants Union.
The WFP said a lack of international funds meant it was unable to distribute the rations of rice, oil, flour, chickpeas and salt, to all those in need.
(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Jon Boyle)