GENEVA - The World Food Program says escalating violence has destroyed crops and farmland in Idlib and North Hama in northwest Syria, depriving thousands of people of food.
Dozens of people reportedly have been killed and wounded and at least 300,000 forced to flee their homes since the latest outbreak of fighting last month between Russian-backed Syrian forces and rebel armed groups.
World Food Program spokesman Herve Verhoosel says other casualties of the war are the thousands of hectares of vital crops and farmland, which have been burned and rendered useless.
"It is unfortunate to see the escalation in violence in the northwest reaching such dramatic levels," he said. "Not only are people displaced [and] lives lost, but farmland vital for the food security of the region — crops such as barley, wheat and vegetables — have been destroyed."
Verhoosel says farmers are not able to access their fields or tend to their remaining crops during the harvest season, which runs until mid-June.
He says the destruction to farmland and agriculture has many short- and long-range consequences, with many farmers and their families having lost their livelihoods and farms. The damage to land and crop yields is expected to disrupt food production cycles and cause food shortages in northwest Syria for years.
The World Food Program says it plans to increase its food distribution operation in the region. The agency has been providing monthly rations to 700,000 people, but plans to boost the number of beneficiaries to 823,000 this month across North Hama, Idlib and rural western Aleppo.