Thanks to the “generous contributions” by top donors and despite the “difficult and dangerous” conditions inside Syria that have killed 79 aid workers since March 2011, humanitarian agencies continue to stay and deliver to millions of people in need, Stephen O’Brien, who is also the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs told the Fifth Syria Top Donor group in Kuwait City.
Humanitarian agencies have delivered food aid, shelter, cash and vouchers, medical services, clean water supplies, psycho-social support and schooling to millions of people in Syria and in neighbouring countries, O’Brien said, and UN agencies were also able to “significantly scale up cross-border operations.”
But he also said “as the Syria crisis enters its fifth year, humanitarian needs are greater than ever.”
“One million people have been displaced by violence this year alone, many for the second or third time, and the humanitarian crisis only looks set to worsen if a political solution is not found,” said O’Brien.
He also noted that “funding shortfalls in Syria can be the difference between life and death.”
“Under-funding could have disastrous results on the civilian population both inside Syria and on Syrians who have crossed borders into neighbouring countries,” the top UN humanitarian official said. “Public services in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, which between them are hosting millions of refugees from Syria, are straining at the seams.”
Aid agencies have received just one third of the funding needed for the Syria Response Plan and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan. For 2015, he told the donors, the combined plans call for $7.42 billion, of which only $2.38 billion has been received, forcing aid agencies to scale back.
Without new funding, O’Brien warned, the World Food Programme has already scaled back food aid by one fifth, and food vouchers by as much as half for some displaced communities, and will have to further reduce its food aid and cash assistance.
UNICEF will not have the $185 million it needs to build, supply or staff new schools.
“This could jeopardize the education of 1.6 million children inside Syria,” he said, and “the funding gap will continue to deny 225,000 people access to life-saving health care inside Syria.”
“And unless donors come forward, the timely procurement of vital shelter supplies or clothes that Syrians will need to survive the winter months will not be possible,” he said.
O’Brien also drew attention to the consequences of the Syrian conflict “that will be felt many years after the fighting comes to an end – not only across the region, but also more widely as people flee Syria in search of safety and better opportunities.”
In the latest such report by UNICEF, the number of “exhausted and desperate” women and children making their way from Syria through the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia seeking refuge in Europe has tripled just in the past three months.
“We are witnessing this in the growing migration crisis that is playing out on the shores of Europe, with the number of migrants and asylum seekers at record highs,” O’Brien said.
He added, “This growing crisis puts all the more onus on the need to find a political solution to the Syria conflict.”
Photo: WFP/Hani Al Homsh