As a major international conference on Syria gets underway in Brussels, United Nations agencies have warned that a sluggish financial support by Member States would put vital assistance for millions of refugees and the communities hosting them at risk.
“The situation is getting desperate,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in a news release on the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) for 2017, a funding appeal launched in January that calls for $4.63 billion in vital assistance for refugees and host communities.
To date, only $433 million, or just 9 per cent, of the amount requested has been received.
“We recognise and applaud the donations made so far, but the simple truth is that funding isn't keeping up with needs,” added Mr. Grandi.
In its seventh year, the conflict in Syria remains the largest humanitarian challenge in the world – with 13.5 million men, women and children inside Syria in need of urgent assistance. There are now more than 5 million Syrian refugees living in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and many more have made the dangerous journey to Europe and farther afield.
The Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, being held today and tomorrow, aims to rev up funding support.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) are extremely concerned by the current low funding levels.
Without additional funding, all areas of assistance will be curtailed this year. Food and cash assistance will be reduced or cut by mid-year, challenging stability and security in the region.
With the majority of Syrian refugees falling below national poverty lines, families will face the impossible choice of taking their children out of school, adding to the half a million children already missing out on education.
Support for livelihoods and job creation programmes will be slowed – at a time when unemployment is on the rise for refugees and host communities alike.
“The story is the same throughout the region – water and sanitation services, employment and housing markets are all under strain,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. “UNDP and its 3RP partners are on the ground expanding infrastructure, boosting livelihoods, and fostering community development in response – but the needs are massive and we need more support.”
Speaking at a thematic session of the Brussels conference, Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien stressed the need to convert huge cash to an effective, immediate, coordinated, collective, collaborative humanitarian programme.
“Multilateral action together does create the greater impact for affected people who are suffering and need our relief action, converting huge cash to an effective, immediate, coordinated, collective, collaborative programme to save lives… and to help build a practical and hopeful future,” he told the session titled 'Humanitarian situation inside Syria: Needs, challenges and way forward.”
“Always know that it is peace that is the best antidote to suffering,” he added.
The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs also underscored the need to ensure that food insecurity across Syria is kept in check and that effective food assistance can be provided in a way to eventually transition those in need from dependency to self-sufficiency.
Response plans must span the humanitarian-development nexus and provide a bridge towards longer-term recovery even as the most critical life-saving and protection needs are being addressed, he said.