UN raises $ 6.4 billion for Syrians as humanitarian needs rise

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – International donors on Tuesday pledged $ 6.4 billion in humanitarian aid to help Syrians fleeing a decade of civil war, but failed to meet a target of $ 10 billion as governments struggle with savings weakened amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the fifth annual conference to prevent Syrians from starving to death, the event hosted by the European Union sought $ 4.2 billion for the internally displaced in Syria and $ 5.8 billion for dollars for refugees and their hosts elsewhere in the Middle East.

The United Nations has raised more than $ 7 billion in 2020 and 2019, although UN officials will continue to push for more pledges throughout this year and will have time, as the money is shared. between 2021 and 2022.

Financial institutions and donors have also accepted low-interest loans worth $ 7 billion, said Janez Lenarcic, EU commissioner for crisis management.

Some 24 million people are in need of basic assistance in Syria and the surrounding region, an increase of 4 million last year. It is also the highest number to date since Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to a devastating civil war.

“Things are getting worse,” UN aid chief Mark Lowcock said via a video link. “We have experienced a decade of death, destruction, displacement, disease, terror and despair,” he said, adding that the United Nations was organizing its biggest response plan for Syria and the United Nations. region to save thousands of lives.

FILE PHOTO: A Syrian refugee boy stands in front of a tent in an informal tent camp in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, March 12, 2021. REUTERS / Mohamed Azakir

THE ENGAGEMENTS

Germany has pledged 1.738 billion euros ($ 2.04 billion), its highest amount in four years. EU support, which comes from its common budget and is separate from the Member States, remained stable at € 560 million.

Other pledges were made throughout the day, including Qatari $ 100 million and nearly US $ 600 million.

Britain has pledged £ 205m ($ 281.16m), although David Miliband, chairman of the International Rescue Committee, said the amount was less than the £ 300m pledged last year, urging London to provide more.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday evening called for Syria’s borders to remain open to allow unhindered access and the free flow of aid, a call echoed by the foreign policy chief of the EU, Josep Borrell.

“It is vital that aid can reach those who need it … It is vitally important for humanitarian aid to be delivered to these people,” Borrell said.

The fighting has died down since an agreement a year ago ended a Russian-led bombing campaign that had displaced more than a million people. But Russian airstrikes, along with the Iranian and Syrian-backed military, continue to target rebel outposts.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement urged international donors to help rebuild Syria, especially to repair essential health, water and electricity services.

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, has urged world powers to strike a peace deal or face numerous other annual donor conferences for Syria. “The ultimate responsibility rests with the parties to the conflict,” he said.

With help from Russia and Iran, Assad has recaptured much of the territory lost to rebels, and UN-backed peacemaking efforts have stalled.

The EU has said there can be no foreign assisted reconstruction in Syria without a peace deal between the Assad government and a myriad of rebels and other opposition groups.

(1 USD = 0.8532 euros)

(1 USD = 0.7291 pounds)

Reporting by Robin Emmott; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Madeline Chambers in Berlin; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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