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Ahead of pledging conference, senior UN officials urge donors to stand by Syrian people

Syrian children play in the alleyway between tents in Akcakale camp, Turkey.
WFP/Berna Cetin
Syrian children play in the alleyway between tents in Akcakale camp, Turkey.

Ahead of pledging conference, senior UN officials urge donors to stand by Syrian people

The crisis in Syria is getting much worse, characterized by shocking “levels of savagery,” the top United Nations relief official has warned, urging countries to pledge as generously as possible ahead of the Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference kicking off tomorrow in Kuwait City.

“While we are managing to get more aid in through cross-border operations, we are seeing a closing down of our ability to get aid across conflict lines inside Syria. The situation is very grave,” UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valery Amos said in an interview with UN Radio.

As the Syrian conflict enters its fifth year, 12.2 million people remain in dire need of aid, says the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which Ms. Amos heads. Nearly half of all Syrians have been forced from their homes – 3.8 million people have fled to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, and 7.6 million people have been internally displaced – making this the largest displacement crisis in the world.

“Needs are increasing and although the amount donors are giving us is also increasing, it’s not increasing at the same pace. I really want to thank our donors for sticking with us but we all know that a political solution has to be found so that the violence that we are seeing on a daily basis calms down,” she said.

Ms. Amos’s call comes on the eve of the conference to be overseen by the Secretary-General and hosted by the Amir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. The Third Pledging Conference aims to mobilize donor support and raise funds required to meet the needs set out in the 2015 Syria Response Plan and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) 2015-2016.

Ms. Amos said the last two years, conference pledges made a significant contribution to the amount that needed for Syria and neighbouring countries. For example, last year, 90 per cent of the money pledged was received but this year the crisis has spread beyond Syria’s borders and the immediate region.

“What we are seeing are needs increasing not just in Syria and in neighbouring countries but across the world. As I speak to you, we are seeing a very difficult situation, for example, unfolding in Yemen,” she added.

She said that on the margins of the conference: “We want the neighbouring countries to be able to have a voice and have an impact on the region. From the Secretary-General down, we are all in contact with all the countries invited, asking them to pledge generously, and we hope they will.”

Joining Ms. Amos at the conference will be Mr. António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ms. Helen Clark, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Ms. Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

In a statement released today, Ms. Cousin echoed Ms. Amos’ pledge to stand by the Syrian people. “Together, we remain committed to the millions of victims of a conflict that has gone on far too long. As the crisis continues, the needs continue to grow, and the resources of the humanitarian response are stretched further and further.”

“Needs are also changing as the crisis enters a fifth year. We are now faced with Syrian children who have spent the first critical 1,000 days of their lives in a conflict situation without adequate food and nutrients. We must ensure our food assistance addresses the development needs of the most vulnerable victims of this crisis,” she said.

WFP is designing and implementing programmes to respond to the evolving needs of Syrian families. It is also working with UNICEF and other partners to encourage children to go to school through school feeding programmes.

“We must not lose a whole generation to war,” urged Ms. Cousin, who is also scheduled to meet Government officials, donor representatives and WFP’s non-government organization partners.

In all, WFP has provided life-saving aid to close to 6 million displaced Syrians every month through providing food assistance, vouchers and electronic cards.

Also at the Kuwait conference on Syria, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) will be asking for $415 million to support some 560,000 Palestine refugees registered in Syria.

“If we do not receive funds immediately at the Kuwait conference, the programme of cash assistance to nearly half a million people will halt in a matter of a few days,” said UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness ahead of the Pledging Conference.

Humanitarian access to around 18,000 Palestinian civilians trapped in the besieged camp of Yarmouk in Damascus, suffered prolonged interruptions due to clashes throughout 2014, he added. There were only 131 days of access, during which UNRWA distributed an average of 89 food parcels a day. At least 400 parcels are required per day to meet minimum nutrition standards for all civilians trapped. Distribution has now resumed after almost three months of no access. During that time, many tried to flee the region.

“With almost no option for flight, Palestinians are increasingly vulnerable and speak of feeling trapped, singled out and unwelcome in the region. In worrying numbers, Palestine refugees are leaving Syria by unsafe routes to Turkey through ISIL-controlled areas or at the mercy of sea traffickers,” Mr. Gunness warned.