KUWAIT CITY [ ABN NEWS ] — In an expression of continued solidarity with the millions of children, women and men affected by the devastating crisis in Syria, now in its fifthyear, international donors today pledged US$3.8 billion at a conference hosted by the Amir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.
“Today, the international community has come together in solidarity with the people of Syria and neighbouring countries bearing the heavy burden of hosting millions of Syrian refugees,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who chaired the conference. “We have sought to send a message of relief to the millions of Syrians who have been affected by this terrible crisis.”
The generous donor support comes as the appalling humanitarian situation inside Syria continues its downwards spiral: some 12.2 million people, including 5.6 million children, now need humanitarian assistance. This is twelve times more than when the crisis erupted
four years ago.
“People have experienced breathtaking levels of violence and savagery in Syria,” said Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. “While we cannot bring peace, this funding will help humanitarian organizations deliver life-saving food, water, shelter, health services and other relief to millions of people in urgent need.”
Many of the 3.9 million refugees now hosted in countries neighbouring Syria face a daily struggle for survival as the crisis drags on, their savings long depleted. More than a third live in sub-standard shelter, hunkering down in garages, crowded rooms, or makeshift settlements. Some 600,000 refugees are out of school, 2.4 million are in need of food aid, and 1.4 million very vulnerable people need cash assistance to meet their most basic needs. Meanwhile, the economies, societies and infrastructure of the host countries are buckling under the strain of hosting so many refugees.
“The hopes of Syrian refugees to return home anytime soon are waning as their country’s crisis worsens. It is vital that we massively increase our support to them – not only so they can survive, but live with dignity and some hope for the future,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. “This also means we must not abandon the host countries to bear the brunt of this crisis alone. Supporting them in proportion to the scale of this gravest crisis of our time is our collective responsibility, and history will judge us on how we respond.”
The crisis is also having a devastating impact on development. Over the past four years, Syria has plummeted from a middle-income country to one where four out of five people are in poverty, and two out of three in extreme poverty. Countries and communities hosting refugees are also under severe strain as health and education services are stretched thin, public infrastructure such as sewage systems are overburdened, and competition for jobs and resources shows signs of tearing at social fabric.
“Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and Turkey are hosting unprecedented numbers of Syrian refugees,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. “The international community must accelerate its support for a development response which supports the solidarity shown by host countries and communities.”
In January 2014, the second pledging conference in Kuwait raised US$2.4 billion. Ninety per cent of those funds have since been disbursed to provide life-saving support for millions of families in Syria and the region. Last year, some 8.9 million people received basic relief items, more than 5 million people received monthly food aid, 2 million children were helped to go to school and millions received medical treatment and had access to clean water thanks to these contributions.
In the refugee hosting countries, more than 2.4 million people were provided with access to safe water and sanitation facilities last year, and 1.9 million people received food aid.Almost 400,000 Syrian children were enrolled in formal education, and 3.9 million primary health consultations were provided. Over 1.1 million people received help with shelter, and 1.5 million received extra aid to help them survive the winter months thanks to contributions from donors.
UN agencies and their humanitarian partners are providing relief through two strategic plans aiming to respond to the crisis inside Syria, the needs of refugees and the impact on communities in neighbouring countries. Combined, these strategic plans ask for $8.4 billion and fundraising against them will continue throughout 2015.
Edited by Jose H Oliveira Jr