In Syria, "The Guest Brings his Bread With him When he Comes"

In Syria,

Reports | 15 07 2022


The bread of living in Syria has become today one of the citizens' concerns. Due to the insufficiency of the bread allocated for her family, Amina (45 years old) is forced to cook rice or bulgur for breakfast instead of the traditional meal that the family was used to previously.

Amina's family (5 persons), which resides in Latakia city, gets two bags of bread daily at a rate of 14 loaves, which means two and a half loaves for each person, which is not sufficient for them throughout the day.

"None of us can eat a whole loaf in breakfast, lunch or dinner, so what if the children asked for sandwiches during the day?" said Amina to Rozana.

Amina has three children, the oldest of whom is not more than 12, and the youngest is 9 years old.

Cooking rice or bulgur for breakfast due to the insufficient bread cost the family great financial burdens. There is a difference between buying a kilo of rice at SYP 4,000 and buying an extra bag of bread for a price not exceeding SYP 200. "They deprived us even of the oil and salt sandwich", she added.

In July 2021, the Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection adopted a new mechanism for distributing subsidised bread. This mechanism specified the number of loaves allocated for each person according to segments, where families are divided into segments according to their number of individuals. According to the decision, each person has the right to get one bag of bread (the bag contains 7 loaves) every three days, at a rate of two loaves and a one-third daily.

A family consisting of two people has the right to get 6 bags of bread a week, while a family consisting of three people gets 7 bags of bread a week, and a family consisting of 4 people gets 10 bags of bread a week and a family consisting 5 people gets 12 bags per week.

While a family consisting of 6 people has the right to get 14 bags of bread a week, and families that their members are between 7 to 8 people have the right to get 18 bags a week.

Bread is not sufficient

Many Syrian families today suffer how to secure the bread, especially since the allocated quantities are impossible to suffice, and it is difficult for the families to buy the bread made for tourists at SYP 3,000 for a bag, or even the unsubsidised government bread at SYP 1200 for a bag, as a result of the significant decrease of income and a lower standard of living, at a time the United Nations estimates that more than 90 per cent of Syrians are below the poverty line.

Samir, 39, from Tartus Governorate, works as a daily porter. His family consists of a wife and two children 7 and 5 years old.

According to the rations system, Samir receives less than one and a half bags of bread daily, "This quantity is hardly enough for us, especially since my work is exhausting and needs energy." Samir said.

Every day, he is forced to buy one bag of bread at an unlimited price of SYP 1200, to make the bread quantities sufficient for his family as possible. The amount he pays is not low compared to his income, which does not exceed 10 thousand per day at best, and sometimes he remains without any wages if he is not fortunate to find a job one day.

The price of one bag of subsidised bread sold in government bakeries through the smart card is SYP 250, while its price through the appointed distributors is between 350 and 500 pounds. The regime's government is unable to control the work of the bakeries and prevent them from supplying the bread to street vendors who sell the bag at multiples of its price. Where the people are forced to buy it from street vendors because of the great crowding in front of bakeries and the long waiting time they spend standing in queues since waiting hours last to 6 hours a day to get the bread.

About 12.4 million people in Syria suffer from food insecurity, they do not know where their next meal will come from, according to a statement by the World Food Program issued late last year.

Due to the fragile Syrian economy, about 60 % of Syrians do not receive food regularly, which has led to chronic malnutrition, especially among a large proportion of children who started to suffer from dwarfism, according to a report by the United Nations in early 2021.

In its report issued last May, the United Nations warned that malnutrition among Syrian children has reached new records after more than 10 years of war and displacement. The UN pointed out that during the past six months, the total number of children who suffer from food insecurity across the country has increased to more than 4.6 million children.

The guest has to bring his bread with him

In its plan to ration bread, the regime's government did not notice how the family would behave if a guest comes, especially on holidays, and here lies the major problem.

Nour, 32, was forced to ask her mother to bring bread with her when she came to visit her on the second day of Eid al-Adha last Sunday.

Nour, who lives in Tartus, says that her family's proportion of bread is not enough for them, then how can she feed the guests? So, she was forced to ask her mother to bring the bread with her.

"My mother was forced to delay her visit two hours until she gets bread from the bakery in her neighbourhood. Here in Tartus, after the process of localisation of the bread, no cardholder has the right to buy his allocations except through the bakery or the authorised person that he chose." Nour said.

The majority of Syrians describe the basic process of obtaining bread as a great humiliation since they stand in queues from the early hours of dawn to get a morsel that is not enough even for their hungry children.

Cutting off the internet deprives Syrians of bread

Sometimes when the internet network is cut from the device of the smart card, hot bread is piled on top of each other, and citizens have to wait to get the "little network coverage" needed to complete the purchase, and they could return to their homes several times before the operation succeeds.

One of the workers in a bakery in the Latakia countryside told Rozana that during the previous winter they suffered a lot from the bad network coverage, and they had to wait several hours before the coverage returned to sell people bread via the smart card.

"We do not dare to sell people bread without the smart card, otherwise the owner of the bakery will be imprisoned and be subjected to legal accountability." He added.

The local newspaper, Al-Baʽath, recently reported that the government is currently studying scenarios that lead to an increase in the price of bread by 50 per cent, which means that the bag of bread will be sold at SYP 300, and the unsubsidised at SYP 1,800, in addition to reducing its weight, although the current quantities are not enough in reality.

It is noteworthy that the process of localisation of bread is in force in Tartus, Hama and Latakia, since the beginning of August of last year. The process stipulates that every citizen specify a special bakery that he can only buy through it, therefore, his smart card will not work if he wants to use it if he is visiting his relatives who are distant for several days.

Recently, the localisation process has been implemented in Damascus city and its countryside, but more smoothly. Where it stipulates that the citizen who belongs to the capital has the right to buy his bread from any bakery within it, and the citizen who belongs to the countryside buys his bread from any bakery within it, and it is not yet clear how the localisation mechanism will be in the rest of the governorates that the process still not implemented there.

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