'Enormous' needs as EU hosts conference to collect money for Syria

'Enormous' needs as EU hosts conference to collect money for Syria
Humanitarian funding for Syria is not keeping pace with rapidly increasing needs, according to top EU officials.
2 min read
around 10% of the funding needed to help Syrians in 2023 has so far been secured [Getty images]

The European Union has opened an international conference on Thursday to collect urgent funds for Syria where an earthquake earlier this year aggravated the already dire plight of millions who have been caught in war since 2011.

Three United Nations agencies have said the needs are "enormous" and warned that only a tenth of necessary financing has so far been secured for 2023 projects to help people inside Syria and the refugees in the region.

"We need much greater financial support from the international community," said a joint statement by Martin Griffiths, Filippo Grandi and Achim Steiner, who jointly steer the U.N.-led response to the crisis in Syria.

"More help for the Syrian people and those hosting them is imperative. The needs are enormous," they said.

According to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, more than 14 million Syrians have fled their homes since 2011, and about 6.8 million remain displaced in their own country, where almost the entire population lives below the poverty line.

About 5.5 million Syrian refugees live in neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq as well as Egypt.

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The U.N. chiefs said they hoped for a similar level of pledges to the $6.7 billion offered for Syria and its neighbours at a similar conference last year.

They warned that U.N. plans for $5.4 billion aid inside the country, as well as $5.8 bln for Syrians in the wider region this year, were critically underfunded.

"Humanitarian funding for Syria is not keeping pace with rapidly increasing needs," said Janez Lenarcic, the conference host and the EU's top official for humanitarian aid and crisis management.

What started as peaceful protests against President Bashar al Assad's rule in Syria in 2011 spiralled into a multi-sided conflict sucking in Russia, Iran, Turkey and other countries. The war has killed more than 350,000 people.

Russia eventually tipped the balance in favour of Assad who last month received a warm welcome at a summit of Arab states that ended years of his isolation by regional peers.

But the West refuses to rehabilitate Assad and a large swathe of Syria remains under the control of Turkish-backed rebels and radical Islamist groups as well as a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia.

Lenarcic also called for extended humanitarian access from Turkey to the northwestern part of Syria. 

Reporting by Reuters