4 million may need humanitarian aid in Syria
The United Nations is warning that the number of people inside Syria needing humanitarian aid could rise sharply from 2.5 million now to 4 million by early next year if the civil war grinds on at its current deadly pace.
John Ging, operations director for the UN humanitarian office, said the UN is also projecting that a failure to end the fighting will lead to an increase in the number of Syrians fleeing to neighbouring countries, from almost 400,000 at present to around 700,000 early next year.
Ging was speaking ahead of Friday’s fifth Syria Humanitarian Forum in Geneva where between 350 and 400 representatives of governments, international organisations and aid groups will hear reports on the sharply deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria.
“People need to be aware of just how desperate the situation is inside Syria for the people there, how unbearable it is, and how they are suffering and falling into ever deeper despair and humanitarian need,” Ging said. “It’s just getting a lot worse very rapidly for the ordinary people.”
At the moment, he said, the UN and other aid organisations were only able to reach 1.5 million of the 2.5 million people in need of assistance inside Syria – and one of the reasons was funding.
Ging said the humanitarian programme for Syrians still inside the country, and the programme for Syrian refugees in camps in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and other neighbouring countries, were both “seriously underfunded”, with donors providing less than 50 per cent of the amount needed.
As of November 2, the UN appeal for US$348 million to provide food, water and other humanitarian aid for those inside Syria had received US$157 million – just 45 per cent of the requirement. Ging said about half the aid was being delivered to conflict areas and half to those who have fled to safer areas inside the country.
As of October 23, the UN refugee agency said its appeal for US$488 million to help Syrian refugees was only about a third funded.
“This is putting an unsustainable burden on first and foremost the neighbouring states,” Ging said. “There isn’t a fair burden-sharing with those countries who have so generously opened their borders and allowed those hundreds of thousands of people to flee. They are carrying the lion’s share of the financial cost.”
Ging said a key message at Friday’s meeting would be an appeal for a broader base of donors to share the financial burden, especially to the wealthy Gulf states.
The big funders currently are the European Union, the United States, Britain, Germany, Russia, Norway, Australia, Canada, Sweden and Switzerland, he said.
There are no major donors from Muslim countries, but Ging said he hopes that will change since he is co-chairing Friday’s meeting with the EU, the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation.
The UN would also be making “a big push and a big appeal to convert the rhetoric of concern for the plight of the Syrian people into more concerted and effective political action to end the conflict, because that is what is creating the humanitarian consequences”, Ging said.
Peter Maurer, head of the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross, said his organisation can’t cope with some of Syria’s humanitarian needs – despite its improved operations in the country – because of the expanding conflict.
Activists say the 20-month civil war has killed more than 36,000 people and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.