Interview: U.S. sanctions rob Syrians of basic needs: official

(Xinhua) 09:48, May 17, 2022

DAMASCUS, May 16 (Xinhua) -- U.S. sanctions on Syria have robbed Syrians of basic needs and aggravated their sufferings, a Syrian government official told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Ziad Hazaa, the general manager of the Syrian Trading Establishment, a Syrian government entity in charge of the distribution of consumer products at affordable prices, said the sanctions, which were imposed in stages by the U.S. and its Western allies on Syria, have had a devastating impact on the livelihoods of the Syrian people.

"Syrians' suffering has been actually huge, starting with the war on Syria and the imposition of unilateral sanctions, which have been in place for a long time," he said.

Working for the Syrian Trading Establishment, which offers materials at subsidized prices and operates 1,400 outlets across the country, Ziad Hazaa said the U.S.-imposed sanctions "have targeted the Syrian people, depriving them of their basic needs such as energy, wheat, and some basic food items."

The sanctions, which aim to exert more pressure on the Syrian state, target food and medicine and have made those necessities less accessible, according to the official.

He added that transportation and shipping expenses rose significantly and meeting basic demands for Syrians had become more expensive than ever after the imposition of sanctions.

Meanwhile, due to the sanctions, Syria's needs for maintaining transportation equipment in previous war zones and purchasing modern transportation equipment to move the relief materials between different Syrian Trading Establishment outlets cannot be addressed, according to the official.

The Syrian government is spending a lot of money on subsidies because some items cost the government twice as much as the price supplied to citizens, he said, noting the government is committed to continue providing subsidies to citizens as a form of social support.

Meanwhile, Hazaa said that the Ukraine crisis has impacted the supply of basic necessities in Syria.

Some food items, mainly cooking oil, have become scarce and sold at very high prices, while wheat and feed costs have risen sharply as a result of the disruption to imports of these goods from Ukraine and Russia, he said.

Some friendly countries have helped Syria acquire some basic food, he added.

International organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), have taken note of the plight of the Syrian people.

"Across Syria, a declining economy due to the consequences of the crisis and sanctions dramatically reduces the population's ability to address vital needs and access to basic services," according to a statement released by the ICRC president on May 13.

Humanitarian needs in the country remain massive as 90 percent of the population is living under the poverty line, and some 14.6 million people, out of 18 million population, are still in need of humanitarian assistance, the statement added.

The extensive destruction and gradual deterioration of vital infrastructure such as water, electricity, and health care, have strained the Syrians' ability to manage, according to the statement.

For its part, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), a non-governmental organization that helps displaced people, warned in a statement earlier in May that vulnerable Syrian families need urgent financial support to survive the country's debilitating economic crisis.

"Families across Syria are struggling to cope as their income is rapidly losing value in the face of spiraling price inflation. This has forced people to devise new survival strategies such as eating less, selling fuel aid to buy food, burning old shoes to keep warm, and skipping urgent medical procedures," the NRC noted.

It added that the Ukraine crisis is deepening an already-chronic food insecurity crisis, affecting displaced Syrians inside their country and in neighboring countries. 

(Web editor: Peng Yukai, Liang Jun)


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