Donor countries on Tuesday raised $6.4 billion to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Syria, far below the United Nations’ target of $10 billion.
Ahead of the donor conference, the UN had warned the needs in Syria are greater than at any point in the 10-year civil war. An estimated 13.4 million people — two in every three Syrians — are in need of humanitarian assistance.
After a decade of “death, destruction, displacement, disease, dread and despair,” Syrians “see no respite,” UN relief chief Mark Lowcock told the conference.
In addition to the $4.4 billion raised for this year’s Syria response, another $2 billion was pledged for 2022.
Germany, which hosts a significant number of Syrian refugees, pledged $2.04 billion — an increase from its pledge last year of $1.13 billion. But most other countries announced cutbacks in aid.
The United States announced nearly $596 million in new funding, a contribution down from last year’s pledge of nearly $700 million. The United Kingdom offered $286 million, a drop of about $90 million from the year before. At $660 million, the European Union’s total stayed the same.
"It is worrying — and indeed deeply concerning — to see signals from a few donors that they are reducing their aid budgets," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told donors. "This is not the time."
Lowcock on Tuesday warned donors that “things are getting worse” in Syria. In the opposition-controlled northeast, 75% of the population of more than 4 million requires aid to meet their basic needs. In the Kurdish-held northeast, an estimated 1.8 million people require humanitarian assistance.
The fighting in Idlib province, which is the last major area still in the hands of the opposition, subsided after a cease-fire was struck between Russia and Turkey last year. But Syrian President Bashar al-Assad still has his sights set on retaking the rebel-held region, and late last month, regime forces struck a hospital in western Aleppo. Two cousins, 10 and 12 years old, were among the casualties.
The call for international aid comes as the UN urges the Security Council to renew a cross-border aid operation into northwest Syria when its mandate expires in July. Over the past year, Russia and China have succeeded in reducing the amount of aid that is delivered to northern Syria, and could use their veto power on the 15-member council to eliminate the single remaining border crossing used by the UN and its aid partners.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who chaired a council meeting on Syria on Monday, urged members to “stop making humanitarian assistance, on which millions of Syrians’ lives depends, a political issue.”