U.N. raises $6.4 billion for Syrians as humanitarian needs soar

Damaged buildings and debris in Deir al-Zor, June 13, 2013.Picture taken June 13, 2013. (Reuters)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — International donors pledged $6.4 billion in humanitarian aid on Tuesday to help Syrians fleeing a decade of civil war, but short of a $10 billion goal.

The fifth conference hosted by the European Union sought $4.2 billion for people displaced inside Syria and $5.8 billion for refugees and their hosts elsewhere in the Middle East, according to Reuters.

The United Nations raised more than $7 billion in 2020 and 2019, although U.N. officials will still press for more pledges throughout this year and have time, as the money is split between 2021 and 2022.

Reuters cited EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic as saying financial institutions and donors had agreed low-interest loans worth $7 billion.

Some 24 million people need aid in Syria and the surrounding region, a rise of 4 million over the past year, Reuters said.

“Things are getting worse,” U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock said via video link. “We’ve had a decade of death, destruction, displacement, disease, dread and despair,” he added.

Lowcock further said the United Nations was organizing its biggest-ever response plan for Syria and the region to save thousands of lives.

Germany pledged 1.738 billion euros ($2.04 billion), its largest amount in four years, Reuters reported. The EU’s support, which is separate from member states, was steady at 560 million euros.

Qatar also pledged 100 million and the United States pledged almost $600 million.

Britain pledged 205 million pounds ($281.16 million), although David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, said the amount was lower than the 300 million pounds pledged last year, urging London to provide more.

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

“It’s vital that assistance can reach those in need…It’s of vital importance for humanitarian help being able to be brought to these people,” Reuters quoted Borrell as saying.

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

International Committee of the Red Cross head Peter Maurer urged world powers to reach a peace deal or face many more annual donor conferences for Syria. “The ultimate responsibility lies with parties to the conflict,” he said.

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