International donors are committed $ 7.7 billion in humanitarian aid for war-torn Syria in a virtual conference hosted by United Nations and European Union.
While less than the nearly $ 10 billion requested by UN agencies, funding promises were higher than expected on Tuesday, given the economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic and shortages in other aid appeals, notably for Yemen in the beginning Of this month.
“We recognize that the circumstances are very unusual, it is a difficult time in each country to find the necessary resources to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people,” said UN aid chief Mark Lowcock after the conference of about 60 governments and unofficial agencies.
The commitments came from countries including Germany, which offered 1.58 billion euros (1.78 billion dollars), in what Berlin declared to be the largest donation from a single country, and Qatar, which $ 100 million promised.
“Today we expressed solidarity with the Syrian people, not only with words, but with concrete support commitments that will make a difference for millions of people,” said European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic.
The promised money will be used to finance food, medical care and education for the millions of Syrians displaced or forced into exile – many of whom live with food insecurity.
However, the Oxfam aid group said that the sum “simply isn’t enough”.
“It is shocking that the international community has not recognized the urgency of the situation,” said Marta Lorenzo, Oxfam’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Now in its tenth year, the war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions of people, triggering a large exodus of refugees. Recently, the humanitarian crisis has been exacerbated by rising food prices and the coronavirus crisis.
The United Nations, which raised $ 7 billion last year, said it needs $ 3.8 billion for aid inside Syria this year.
About 11 million people need help and protection in Syria, of which more than 9.3 million lack adequate food.
Another $ 6 billion is being sought to help the 6.6 million Syrians who have fled, in what is the largest refugee crisis in the world.
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that the cost for his country to host over one million Syrian refugees has exceeded $ 40 billion since the conflict began in March 2011 and warned that the situation is worsening in an economic crisis .
Diab called on the United Nations, the EU and friendly nations to “protect Lebanon from the negative consequences” of sanctions, such as those imposed on Syria by the administration of US President Donald Trump in mid-June.
United Nations officials will continue to insist on further commitments throughout the year and will have time to divide the money between 2020 and 2021.
The United Nations resident coordinator and the humanitarian coordinator for Syria Imran Riza, speaking from Qamishli in northern Syria, highlighted the problems faced by Syrians affected by the long-standing conflict.
“We are on the cusp of all these multiple crises,” said Riza.
“You see children who are clearly becoming malnourished. You are seeing levels of malnutrition that we have never seen in the past nine years and this gets worse if you don’t act right away.”
In addition to the Syrian difficulties, an economic collapse and the freeze on COVID-19 has pushed food prices more than 200 percent more in less than a year, according to the World Food Program (WFP).
According to a Johns Hopkins University count, there have been only 269 confirmed cases of coronavirus, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the real situation is likely to be much worse and the number of infections that could accelerate.