UN aid chief says $8bn needed to help Syrians

UN aid chief says $8bn needed to help Syrians
Mark Lowcock said a huge sum needs to be raised at a donor conference in Brussels on Wednesday to help Syrians affected by the bloody civil war.
3 min read
24 April, 2018
Resources for work inside Syria and with refugees are "desperately short"

The head of the UN aid agency said on Tuesday $8 billion needs to be raised at a donor conference in Brussels to help Syrians affected by the country's bloody civil war.

Resources for work inside Syria and with refugees in neighbouring countries were "desperately short", Mark Lowcock, the head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), said. 

Programmes may have to be cut back if funds are not forthcoming, he warned.

Donor countries, aid groups and UN agencies are meeting for the seventh international conference on Syria's future as the conflict, now in its eighth year, shows no sign of letting up.

Ministers will gather to make financial commitments on Wednesday, with EU and UN officials hoping to do better than the $6 billion pledged last year.

"We're looking for $3.5 billion for urgent humanitarian assistance inside Syria for 13 million people and then $5.6 billion to help those countries bordering Syria who are hosting refugees," Lowcock told AFP, saying around $1.2 billion had already been raised.

"Overall tomorrow what we're looking for is $8 billion."

In 2017 and 2016 UNOCHA managed to raise only half of the money it needed for work in Syria, with donor countries increasingly under pressure to help out in other crises rather than the protracted, bloody Syrian civil war.

Lowcock called on President Bashar al-Assad and his international allies, particularly Russia, to do more to help Syrians suffering the effects of the conflict.

"The government of Syria obviously has a responsibility - which they accept - for their own people, and the more they can use their own resources for meeting basic needs rather than dropping bombs the better," Lowcock said.

"The second is there are a number of countries that provide bilateral assistance to Syria, like Russia, and the more of that that can happen on a larger scale the better as well."

Moscow, along with Iran, is Assad's key ally and Russian military intervention in Syria is widely seen as having tipped the balance of the civil war in his favour.

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria. 

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.