“Even in 2024, Securing Bread is a Struggle”: Bread Distributions Save Lives in Northeast Syria

More than 13 years of conflict, violence, and displacement have upended communities across Syria. In northeast Syria, food assistance provides a critical lifeline to families working to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. 

The Shelter and Food Emergency Response (SAFER) program, funded by the USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, works to improve food security for people in the region.  

a woman sits on the floor of her kitchen with a package of bread in front of her

Badriya purchases discounted bread through the SAFER program three times a week. Bread is a staple in her family’s diet, especially when they cannot grow or purchase enough to eat.

The SAFER program reaches hundreds of thousands of Syrians, with the widest-reaching initiative ensuring that residents of displacement camps and local communities have access to fresh bread. We support every step of the bread supply chain—from procuring flour regionally to supply local bakeries, to organizing daily, free bread distributions in camps and the sale of reduced-price bread in villages.    

For many people living in communities across northeast Syria, reduced-cost bread is a staple for regular meals. Badriya, a woman in her sixties, purchases bread from a local SAFER distribution point three days a week. 

“On days when we didn’t get bread from SAFER, we’d go to sleep with empty stomachs,” she said.  

two women wash the hands of a disabled man in their house

Badriya lives with her husband and five adult children, two of whom are disabled and one of whom she cares for around the clock. Often, they struggle to grow or buy enough to feed the family of seven.

Badriya’s home is always full, as her adult children live with her. Despite her husband’s work as a construction worker, his wages cannot cover the household’s expenses. With two sons with disabilities and another requiring constant medical care, the family has struggled. 

Badriya cares for her sons day in and day out but never loses hope.  “My sons, Muhammad and Saleh, are a part of me, a gift from God,” she said. “They are more than just children; they are my heart and soul.” 

To supplement her husband’s income, Badriya has cultivated a small vegetable patch in their yard and keeps a few cows. The food she grows helps her be less dependent on buying food from the market.  

two women work in a garden

Badriya’s family grows vegetables on their property to supplement their diets and lessen the burden of paying for food.

But for seven adults, they don’t always have enough to eat. 

The SAFER program’s bread distributions have given the family access to affordable, fresh food. Through our partnerships with local bakeries, we are providing families with relief from rising market prices. The bakeries involved in this initiative baked over 20 million kilograms of bread last year. 

“Even in 2024, securing bread is a struggle,” Badriya said. “But I am grateful. We face our challenges with open hearts, grateful for SAFER’s support for us and providing us with bread.” 

a woman stands in front of her house with a goat

Badriya depends on bread distributions so her family can have fresh food when their garden and livestock do not produce enough food.

In addition to supporting the bread supply chain in northeast Syria, our team manages a supplementary food voucher program. Last year, nine thousand families used these vouchers to buy diverse, nutritious foods from local markets. Together, these initiatives reached over half a million people across the Al-Hasakeh, Ar-Raqqa, and Deir ez-Zor governorates in 2023, bringing much-needed sustenance to their tables.