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Aid in context: the importance of market-based approaches to aid delivery in northern Syria

With the Syrian conflict now in its seventh year, 13.5 million Syrians need humanitarian aid. But aid in northern Syria focuses inflexibly on food kits that are expensive to administer, designed to satisfy short-term needs. Many people sell their food aid to pay for other urgent needs. This undermines local producers and distorts local markets, especially since over half the food comes from outside Syria. Yet, city economies are shifting towards small and micro businesses that trade locally and help people cope with the risks of prolonged conflict. Urban communities’ capacity to do business in wartime conditions is a clear strength that humanitarian aid should support. It is time to shift from focusing on food aid to using contextsensitive, market-based approaches that leverage benefits from existing local strengths, resources and capacities.

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Urban areas are increasingly the sites of humanitarian crises, from natural disasters to conflict and displacement. Through a programme of research, documenting and learning from experience and development of tools and approaches, IIED is working to build the knowledge and capacity to respond of humanitarian actors working in urban areas, and of urban actors facing humanitarian crises.

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Urban Crises Learning Fund