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Syria Turns the School Playgrounds into Vegetable Gardens to Feed Hungry Children

The ongoing crisis in Syria is having a devastating effect on the health and nutrition of an entire generation of children

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A boy sells vegetables and fruits along a street in the Damascus suburb of Qudsaya, Syria
A boy sells vegetables and fruits along a street in the Damascus suburb of Qudsaya, Syria. VOA
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  • Young children are often the most vulnerable to malnutrition in a crisis
  • Good nutrition is a child’s first defense against common diseases

School playgrounds across Syria are being transformed into vegetable gardens where children whose diets have been devastated by six years of war can learn to grow and then eat — aubergines, lettuces, peppers, cabbages, and cucumbers.

Traditional Syrian cuisine is typical of the region and rich in vegetables. Its mainstays include hummus, minced lamb cooked with pine nuts and spices, varied salads, stews made with green beans, okra or courgettes and tomatoes, stuffed cabbage leaves and artichoke hearts.

But the six-year war has changed that for much of the population, and many now live mainly on bread or food aid.

According to U.N. figures, unemployment now stands at more than 50 percent, and nearly 70 percent of the population is living in extreme poverty, in what was once a relatively wealthy country.

“The ongoing crisis in Syria is having a devastating effect on the health and nutrition of an entire generation of children,” Adam Yao, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) acting representative in Syria, said on Tuesday, ahead of the start of the school year.FAO is helping some 17 primary schools in both government and opposition-controlled areas to plant up to 500 meter-square fruit and vegetable plots in war-torn areas including Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Idlib and the outskirts of Damascus.

FAO is helping some 17 primary schools in both government and opposition-controlled areas to plant up to 500 meter-square fruit and vegetable plots in war-torn areas including Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Idlib and the outskirts of Damascus.Young children are often the most vulnerable to malnutrition in a crisis, which can have serious and long-lasting effects on their growth and future development.

Young children are often the most vulnerable to malnutrition in a crisis, which can have serious and long-lasting effects on their growth and future development.

“Good nutrition is a child’s first defense against common diseases and important for children to be able to lead an active and healthy life,” Yao added.

The primary schools, which began planting in May, have produced 12 tons of fruit and vegetables. Another 35 schools are expected to start transforming their playgrounds soon in Aleppo and in rural areas around Damascus.

Also Read: Ground Report: How ISIS is ruining lives of people in Syria and Iraq

Rising prices, falling production

The price of food has risen since the start of the war — agriculture production has plummeted, and the country now relies on food imports to make up the shortfall. Transporting food around the country has also become difficult and costly.

About 13.5 million people in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance. Of those, 7 million are unable to meet their basic food needs.

Some 5 million people receive international food aid, but not everyone in need can be reached, and the World Food Program says it has had to cut a number of calories in its family food baskets because of funding shortages.

“The donors are generous, but we don’t know how long they can continue to be generous and rely on taxpayers’ money,” the FAO’s Yao told Reuters.

Vulnerable families are receiving help from FAO to grow food at home, so they can become less reliant on food aid.

“Food aid is very important, but … we should combine both, in a way that people grow their own food and move away from food aid gradually,” he said.

In a country where more than half the population has been forced to flee their homes, many moving several times, investing in agriculture helps people to stay put for as long as it is safe, Yao added.

“Agriculture has become a hope for [many] because they can grow their own food and survive — even in the besieged areas.” (VOA)

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As per Assocham, the Indian economy may reach 7% in 2018

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As per Assocham, the Indian economy may reach 7% in 2018.
As per Assocham, the Indian economy may reach 7% in 2018. IANS
  • Because of demonitisation, the economy may reach 7% in 2018: Assocham
  • Inflation may range between 4-5.5 per cent towards the second half of the next calendar year
  • Assocham expects the forthcoming Union Budget to be “heavily tilted” towards the farmers

New Delhi, Dec 24, 2017: With government policies set to tilt more towards the “stress-ridden rural landscape” next year in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Indian economy may reach a 7 per cent growth in 2018 while recovering from the lingering effects of demonetisation and GST, industry chamber Assocham said on Sunday.

“After ‘disruptions’ from the lingering effects of demonetisation and GST roll-out, the Indian economy may reach a 7 per cent growth in 2018 with government policies tilting towards the stress-ridden rural landscape in the penultimate year before the Lok Sabha elections,” according to the industry body’s “Year-Ahead Outlook”.

“Against GDP growth of 6.3 per cent in the second quarter of 2017-18, the economic expansion may reach the crucial 7 per cent mark by the end of September 2018 quarter, while inflation may range between 4-5.5 per cent towards the second half of the next calendar year with the monsoon being a key imponderable,” it said.

Assocham President Sandeep Jajodia said the projections were based on the assumption of stability in government policies, good monsoons, pick-up in industrial activity and credit growth as also stability in the foreign exchange rates.

“The worries on account of crude oil shooting up are likely to abate, if there are no fresh geo-political shockers.”

According to the Assocham outlook, while the underlying bullish sentiment should continue to prevail in the Indian stock market in 2018, the returns on equity may not be as robust as in 2017.

“This is because the 2017 bull run has already factored in the return of growth steadiness in 2018 and the corporate earnings witnessing a pick-up,” it said.

The industry lobby said in the run-up to state assembly elections in several politically important states, the political economy is set to tilt towards the farm sector “which has been witnessing some stress”.

“The stress in the agriculture sector is traceable to lack of reforms in the rural economy. Despite political promises, several of the states have not been able to reform the APMC Act, which restricts farmers to sell their produce to a particular set of cartels.”

Assocham expects the forthcoming Union Budget to be “heavily tilted” towards the farmers while the industrial focus would be on sectors which create jobs.

“A realisation seems to be dawning that growth per se is not enough, the benefits must be seen in the form of higher employment. The year 2018 would see policies in this direction”, the statement added. (IANS)