Syria's suffering can't be forgotten amid Ukraine invasion, says IRC ahead of key conference

Syria's suffering can't be forgotten amid Ukraine invasion, says IRC ahead of key conference
As countries and international organisations meet for the Sixth Brussels Conference on the future of Syria, the International Rescue Committee urged participants to 'ramp up' funding to support the war-torn country.
2 min read
10 May, 2022
The Syria Conference brought together around 70 countries and international institutions, including UN agencies [source: Getty]

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has called on international donors to “ramp up” efforts to alleviate suffering in Syria, warning that Ukraine should not divert attention away from the war-torn nation. 

The IRC said that humanitarian needs “have reached an all-time high” in the country plagued by war for over 11 years. It highlighted that 14.6 million people, 70 percent of Syria's population, need help with basic goods to survive and 12 million are food insecure.

The Sixth Brussels Conference on “Supporting the future of Syria and the region” takes place this week on Monday and Tuesday.

“As the international community mobilises to tackle the crisis in Ukraine, we cannot forget the staggering level of humanitarian needs in Syria,” said IRC Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy in Europe, Imogen Sudbery. 

The conference, hosted by the EU and featuring 70 countries and international institutions, is the “main pledging event” for Syria and surrounding countries for the year.  

At the Fifth Brussels Conference, the international community raised a total of $6.4 billion. However, the IRC said just 46 percent of the required funds were committed - the lowest seen in six years. 

“Even if donors pledge the same as previous years, they will not fill this gap,” added Sudbery. 

The UK announced on Tuesday that it had pledged “up to £158 million” for "vulnerable" Syrians. 

This is down from a previous pledge of around £205 million in 2021, and £300 million in 2020. 

Comparatively, Germany pledged more than one billion euros in support this year. 

The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said Washington committed $800 million.

The IRC told The New Arab: "While we welcome the UK's pledge of £158m and the pledges offered by other donors, the conference has yet again fallen short on delivering the funds required to support the 14.6 million Syrians in humanitarian need. 

"Last year, the UK cut its support for Syria by 32 percent, and this year's pledge represents another steep drop in support. The impacts will be severe."

The Syrian war started in 2011 and is now in its 12th year, with more than half a million people estimated to have been killed and millions displaced. 

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said at the donor event: “The Russian war [in Ukraine] will increase food and energy prices and the situation in Syria will become worse.”