The European Union, the United States and dozens of other nations pledged $ 6.4 billion in aid Tuesday to help tackle war-torn Syria’s deepened humanitarian and economic crises and help neighboring host countries.
The promise of help came on the last day of an annual conference that hosted the UN and the EU in the midst of a worsening coronavirus pandemic. The conflict in Syria has entered its eleventh year without any political solution in sight.
EU Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarcic announced the total pledge, saying that financial institutions and donors, in addition to grants, offered $ 7 billion in loans.
“A decade after the Syrians peacefully took to the streets and asked for freedom, justice and economic perspectives, these demands are still unfulfilled and the country is in chaos,” said Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat.
The EU said it had committed € 3.7 billion ($ 4.3 billion) for 2021 and beyond, with € 1.12 billion ($ 1.31 billion) coming from the bloc’s executive arm and € 2.6 billion (3 billion) from the 27 EU Member States.
Global commitments were lower than last year’s total of $ 7.7 billion. Prior to the conference, the UN and other aid groups had said they were seeking more than $ 4 billion in aid to Syria, their biggest appeal to date. An additional $ 5.8 billion was requested for nearly 6 million Syrian refugees fleeing their homeland.
A group of 37 aid agencies said they were disappointed.
“While we welcome the commitments of countries that have kept their funding at the same level as last year or increased it, as well as Germany, it is extremely disappointing to see two major donors, the United Kingdom and the United States, turn their backs on the Syrian situation. “, sa de.” This will have a devastating effect on their lives. “
US Ambassador to the United States Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced more than $ 596 million in US humanitarian aid for 2021. The State Department said the aid would benefit people in Syria and refugees in neighboring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.
The decade of bloodshed in Syria has killed more than half a million people and triggered a refugee flight that has destabilized neighboring countries and affected Europe. According to the UN, 13.4 million people in Syria – more than half of the country’s pre – war population – need help. This is an increase of 20% from last year.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Syria’s humanitarian situation has worsened. The local currency has crashed and food prices have risen – by 222% from the previous year. Nine out of ten people live below the poverty line and in northwestern Syria, an area maintained by the rebels, almost three quarters of the 4.3 million inhabitants are food safe.
“The situation for Syrians in their own country and in neighboring countries is worse than it has ever been in the last nine years,” said UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock. “There is less violence, but there is more suffering.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas promised 1.738 billion euros ($ 2 billion) on behalf of Germany on Tuesday, an amount he described as the country’s biggest promise in the last four years.
“The Syrian tragedy must not continue for another ten years,” he said. “To end it begins with restoring hope.”
Meanwhile, the UK sent its pledge to “at least” 205 million pounds (281 million dollars) compared to 300 million (411.8 million dollars) last year.
“Coming just a few weeks after the tenth anniversary of the conflict, this decision is deeply worrying, especially given the huge impact that British aid has had over the last ten years,” said David Miliband, chair of the International Rescue Committee’s relief team.
Borrell called for a political solution to the conflict, saying that Syria’s future “belongs to none of the factions and not to any of the external powers.” It is for the Syrians to form themselves in Syrian-owned and Syrian-led negotiations under the auspices of the UN. ”
The Syrian government has regained control of the country’s largest cities, but large parts of Syria are still held by rebels. Supporters of President Bashar Assad include Russia and Iran, while Turkey and the Western powers have supported the opposition.
Geir Pedersen, the UN special envoy for Syria, said a ceasefire was still “more urgent than ever” and expressed concern over the threat from extremist groups.
“The re-emergence of these groups and the territorial grip of some of them cannot leave the international community indifferent,” he said. “At the same time, it is clear that this challenge can only be addressed in ways that uphold international law and the principles of civil protection.”
Lowcock insisted on the crucial importance of providing support to Syrian children, not only for humanitarian reasons but also for strategic reasons.
“How do we think these children will look like adults, if they never go to school, if all they have known is a world of war, if all they see is suffering?” He said.
According to the UN Children’s Agency, the civil war has killed or injured almost 12,000 children and left millions out of school.