Economic activity in Syria has halved since the beginning of the conflict in 2011 as a result of large losses of human capital that has disrupted social and economic networks, destroyed infrastructure, degraded basic services, and disrupted trade.4 Compounding this, the Syrian economy has suffered from COVID-19, prolonged droughts and changing climate conditions, rapid currency depreciation, high inflation, and the knock-on effects from the crises in Lebanon, Türkiye, and Ukraine. Such factors have contributed to pushing commodity and fuel prices up greatly eroding the purchasing power of the population, one of the key drivers of humanitarian need. 5 A Multi-Sector Needs Assessment in 2021 showed that a majority of respondents in NES reported that they could not afford essential items in the market where prices are highly volatile.6 According to the Syria Joint Market Monitoring Initiative, the price of the food component of the Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket in NES has increased by 70% in the past six months.7 Insufficient income and lack of employment opportunities forces households in NES to rely on negative coping strategies, including borrowing money to buy food or other essentials, sending children to work, and purchasing items on credit.8 Recent Labour Market Assessments in NES revealed that over two thirds of respondents in both Al-Hasakeh city and Ar-Raqqa city reported that lack of job opportunities prevented them from finding employment, while an additional one-third of respondents in both cities cited high competition for jobs as a key barrier to finding employment.9 In addition, 38% of respondents in ArRaqqa and 22% of respondents in Al-Hasakeh reported wanting to start their own business but lacking resources to do so.
In this context, the NES Economic Recovery and Livelihoods (ERL) Sector has prioritised implementation of livelihood interventions to help households meet immediate needs and support socio-economic actors, including individuals and MSMEs, to be drivers of local economic activity and employment growth within targeted communities.10 This has involved, among other activities, the provision of cash value grants to businesses, primarily focusing on micro and small enterprises to date. With the aim of expanding and better targeting such support to include a greater variety of business sizes and sectors, ERL actors need more information on the actual operating costs faced by MSMEs in NES across different sectors, as well as the key challenges business owners face in maintaining or growing their businesses.