Syria: Dire funding situation continues

Syrian refugees at the Domiz camp in Kurdistan. According to U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs data, about $6 in every $10 appeal of the total appeal have not been funded so far. Photo by: E.Dorfman / UNHCR

The conflict in Syria continues with more and more refugees each day — yet humanitarian aid is so slow to arrive as donors scramble to find a political option that aid workers scramble to deliver services on the ground.

Data as of August 2 from the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs depicts the status of the Syrian crisis as, to a large extent, as a tragedy of humanitarian aid: About $6 in every $10 of the total appeal have not been funded so far.

Several large iNGOs are frustrated. Care International, Oxfam, World Vision, Danish Refugee Council, and Handicap International say they are beyond overstretched as refugees swell host countries.

While aid groups ask donors to dig deeper into their pockets to fund the biggest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, dozens of humanitarians working on the frontlines and in countries providing shelter to refugees are still waiting for the money to arrive.

No funding at all for some groups

The slow — and incremental — arrival of humanitarian aid inside Syria and to  countries that host refugees comes at a time when donors weigh in on a more political option to resolve the crisis. As donors debate intensely on whether to arm the rebels or further isolate the government, appeals for emergency aid remain unheeded.

Seven aid groups such as UNESCO providing aid inside Syria have not received any funding at all, data from U.N. OCHA shows.

Inside the country, U.N. agencies such as the World Health Organization, the World Food Program and UNICEF asked for about $729 million, but seven months later they have only gotten $339 million.

The dearth of aid flowing into the ravaged Syria has put too much constraints on how to distribute donor money. Nutrition-related and emergency telecommunication projects barely get any funds, and of the $343 million requested for non-food items and shelter, donors have provided about $12.8 million.

Host countries also underfunded

This year, the massive influx of Syrian refugees is overwhelming the humanitarian response in countries which host them. The United Nations has appealed for $3 billion to Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq or Turkey with the deluge of refugees.

So far about $1.1 billion has been received.

Eight out of ten organizations working in neighboring countries have 50 percent or less of their funding requirements for this year, and 44 of the 87 agencies appealing on behalf of host countries for about $179 million, but have not gotten any money yet, OCHA data shows.


Lebanon appealed for $613 million in aid to support the needs of about 650,000 Syrian refugees and the Lebanese citizens that house them — so far they have received $500 million.

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About the author

  • John Alliage Morales

    As a former Devex staff writer, John Alliage Morales covered the Americas, focusing on the world's top donor hub, Washington, and its aid community. Prior to joining Devex, John worked for a variety of news outlets including GMA, the Philippine TV network, where he conducted interviews, analyzed data, and produced in-depth stories on development and other topics.

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