Syrian pound plunges

Depreciation worsens the economic and humanitarian crisis in the country
Central Bank of Syria building in Damascus

REUTERS/OMAR SANADIKI  -   Central Bank of Syria building in Damascus

The Syrian pound plummeted on the black market on Tuesday, reaching an all-time low of around 4,000 pounds to the dollar, a figure that worsens the prospects for a country with an economy devastated by war. One dollar was worth 47 pounds before the conflict, which is just over a decade old this year. On the black market, the Syrian currency has since lost almost 99% of its value. A figure confirmed to AFP by several traders contacted by the agency.  

In addition to the damage caused by the war itself, the Syrian economy is suffering from Western sanctions and the financial crisis in Lebanon, whose banking system has long served as a base for the supply of dollars. The crisis in Lebanon is for analyst Zaki Mechy, contacted by AFP, "one of the main causes".  

Lebanese banks have drastically reduced withdrawals and transfers of dollars abroad since autumn 2019. Since then, the Lebanese pound has also plunged, touching a record low on the black market on Tuesday, approaching 10,000 pounds to the dollar, against the official rate of 1,507 to the dollar.  

The Syrian government also points to Lebanon as the main culprit for the collapse of the Syrian pound.  

The depreciation of the Syrian currency on the black market shortly before the entry into force of the US sanctions imposed in 2020 led the country's authorities to devalue it, setting an official rate of 1,250 pounds to the US dollar.  

Empleados sirios apilan paquetes de moneda siria en el Banco Central de Siria en Damasco
AP/HUSSEIN MALLA - Syrian employees pile up bundles of Syrian currency at the Central Bank of Syria in Damascus.

The most tangible result for the population is that food prices have increased 33-fold in ten years, according to the World Food Programme, while 60% of the population is food insecure.  

Just a week ago the UN warned that 4.5 million Syrians live in extreme poverty, a figure that rises to 13.4 million if people in need of humanitarian assistance are included, 20% more than last year.  

The UN mission managing the assistance received barely half the funds it needed, $2.13 billion out of $3.82 billion, making it difficult to address other needs such as the 2.4 million children without access to education and the 5.9 million people in need of housing assistance.  

The refugee crisis unleashed by the war remains the largest in the world today, with a total of 5.6 million Syrians living outside their country, the majority (3.6 million) in Turkey. In addition, within the country itself, 6.2 million have been displaced from their homes. More than 7,000 children have been killed or seriously injured and around 3,000 have become child soldiers.