iMMAP Inc.'s Crucial Assessment Reveals Strained Bread Supply Chain in Post-Earthquake Northwest Syria

Food insecurity looms over Northwest Syria as earthquake destructions choke local bread supplies and productions.

Al Iman Bakery in A’zaz, Aleppo, devastated by earthquake. Photo courtesy of Global Communities.

When the earthquake struck Turkey and Northwest Syria (NWS) on February 6, 2023, it disrupted the region's wheat flour-to-bread production facilities, posing significant challenges to operational capacity and regional food security.

This study made possible through collaboration with USAID Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) partners, Northwest Syria Food Security and Livelihood (FSL) Cluster members, Implementing Partners (IPs), and NWS Bread and Bakery Technical Working Group (BBTWG) members, scrutinized the condition of 360 facilities. Spread across 39 sub-districts in Idleb, Aleppo, Ar-Raqqa, and Al-Hasakeh, the facilities encompassed 297 bakeries, 47 mills, and 16 silos. Our team discovered that a startling 95% of these facilities had suffered partial damage from the earthquake. Even more concerning was that 14% had been compelled to halt operations entirely due to the extent of the damage.

“This study serves as a wake-up call, highlighting the urgent need for intervention and support to restore the damaged facilities and address the looming food insecurity. The insights from this study will guide policymakers in formulating effective recovery plans and strategically allocating resources to ensure the region's long-term food security."Mohammed Belo, Country Representative, iMMAP Syria/Jordan

A graffiti saying “In God, we trust” written outside of Barakat Bakery in Aleppo, Syria. Picture taken in February 2023, courtesy of Syria Relief.

In the wake of the devastating earthquake, iMMAP Inc.'s data collection faced significant challenges gathering data from the heavily affected communities. The task of accessing various damaged areas, cluttered with scattered debris and structurally compromised buildings, proved daunting. Moreover, certain security concerns hindered the team from reaching several damaged facilities.

Bread production, a vital cog in the region's food security, fell drastically. Current production is only 36% of the maximum capacity, demonstrating the earthquake's massive disruption to the supply chain.

The provision of bread has become increasingly challenging in the wake of the earthquake. Numerous bakeries have encountered significant obstacles in obtaining imported flour due to the closure of Bab Al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey. This disruption in the supply chain has further exacerbated the difficulties faced by bakeries in producing an adequate amount of bread to meet the needs of the affected population. The closure of the border crossing has had a direct impact on the availability and accessibility of essential resources, compounding the existing challenges faced by the bread production sector in the region.

Over half of all bakeries, regardless of their operational status, currently receive aid primarily in the form of flour or yeast. The assistance comes from various sources, with AFAD contributing 45%, NGOs 42%, and Local Councils 5%, among others.

The findings of the study underscore the urgency for focused intervention in the bread production sector. Furthermore, this study illuminates the stark reality of the limited resources and support available to sustain and rehabilitate bread processing facilities, both at a local and cross-border level. While a surge of assistance has been directed towards earthquake-affected areas in NWS, the stark reality remains that only a minuscule 5% of the afflicted areas have received aid and support.

Grasping the dynamics of Syria is a complex task, considering the range of factors at play - ongoing conflict, severe inflation, a spike in fuel prices, currency depreciation, frequent extreme weather events, and the influx of imported flour. Amid these layers of intricacy, iMMAP Inc.'s Food Security and Livelihoods division remains committed in harnessing the power of information to facilitate evidence-based decisions.  With years of work on the Wheat to Bread value chain, our team provides insights into the region and its thematic challenges.

Two men outside Suran Bakery in Aleppo. Picture courtesy of NGO Bahar.

This post earthquake study, leveraging iMMAP Inc.'s commitment to bridge understanding about Syria, equips strategists and policymakers with informed knowledge for effective recovery and development planning. Beyond this, it serves as a comparative measure for evaluating recovery and enhancement in areas where funding decisions were influenced by this tool, enabling objective assessment of intervention effectiveness. With this methodology, we aim to continue our role as players in unraveling and addressing the challenges of food security in Syria.