Syrians will starve this year and probably for years to come without international assistance, the United Nations warned Wednesday.
The international body said the country’s farming and infrastructure has been utterly destroyed in the savage civil war that has raged for the past 22 months.
More than 60,000 Syrians have been killed, and another 2.5 million Syrians left hungry in the devastation, said the U.N. in a statement to media.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said wheat and barley production in Syria was slashed in half, dropping in 2012 to 2 million tons from its normal 4-4.5 million tons in prior years. Agriculture, vital to the nation’s economy, accounted for nearly 20 percent of Syria’s gross domestic product before the war.
“The mission was struck by the plight of the Syrian people whose capacity to cope is dramatically eroded by 22 months of crisis,” Dominique Burgeon, director of the FAO Emergency and Rehabilitation Division, said in a statement. “Destruction of infrastructure in all sectors is massive and it is clear that the longer the conflict lasts, the longer it will take to rehabilitate it.”
Meanwhile, the prospects for any negotiated peaceful settlement to the war between loyalist troops defending President Bashar al-Assad from opposition forces who want to oust him from power have faded into the twilight.
The war has finally begun to ravage the capital as well, where residents said gasoline supplies ended on Sunday. Power cuts have become part of daily life in various Damascus neighborhoods, and suburbs of the capital are slowly being pummeled into rubble through government bombings aimed at rebel forces.
Earlier this week, Syria's largest benefactor, Russia, began withdrawing its citizens from the country as well in a long-avoided acknowledgement that Assad is unlikely to hold onto power despite Moscow's steadfast support.
The war has also further fractured the already divided opposition factions, which were sectarian to start with – making it impossible for Western nations to offer assistance to the helpless Syrians caught in the crossfire.
The watchdog Human Rights Watch organization said Wednesday the burning and looting of religious sites belonging to minority groups in recent months suggests a further escalation of sectarian conflict.