UN seeks over $5B for Syrian crisis

A Syrian refugee camp established by the UNHCR in Za'atri, Jordan. The European Union responds to United Nations' appeal for the Syrian crisis with a €400 million cash aid, hoping to inspire other organizations to do suit. Photo by: ACNUR/B.Sokol / CC BY-NC-SA

The United Nations is asking donors for more than $5 billion in funding to continue providing humanitarian assistance to people affected by the Syrian crisis.

The appeal, launched on Friday in Geneva, outstrips the United Nations’ request of more than $1.5 billion in December for the Syria Regional Response Plan and the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan, which covers the period January-June 2013. The new appeal asks for $2.98 billion for refugees in neighboring countries, and $1.4 billion for activities within Syria.

A remaining $830 million would go to efforts in Jordan and Lebanon, which have been feeling the burden of the Syrian refugee crisis.

The appeal comes amid increasing calls from U.N. agencies and nongovernmental organizations for more funding. Heads of leading U.N. agencies even released a video message saying they were “precariously close” to suspending some of their humanitarian programs for Syrians.

The World Food Program, for instance, which spends $19 million a week for its Syria emergency operations, needed to raise $81 billion by the end of this month to continue its life-saving efforts, emergency coordinator Muhannad Hadi told Devex in April.

The figure is based on the growing number of displaced Syrians and refugees, which the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimate to skyrocket to 8.6 million from 6.8 million, and 3.5 million from 1.6 million, respectively, by the end of the year.

New funds

The EU announced a new funding package for those affected by the Syrian crisis, just before the United Nations launches on Friday its latest appeal for funds for its cash-strapped agencies.

The new assistance, worth €400 million ($525.7 million), is part humanitarian and part non-humanitarian in nature, according to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. It will go to organizations operating in Syria as well as to neighboring countries already feeling the burden of the refugee crisi, particularly Jordan and Lebanon.

EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva hoped the European Union’s decision ”will inspire other donors” to make substantial pledges as well.

“It is vital that donors step up to the plate,” she added.

Aid groups to donors: Honor your pledges

A group of 20 international aid agencies part of the newly-formed Syria INGO Regional Forum have called on donors to be generous with their response to the new appeals, and commit funds instead of just promises. A number of donors have yet to honor their pledges in January, which then reached more than $1.5 billion.

“The Syrian crisis is our largest challenge as humanitarian agencies worldwide […] The frustrations of knowing that many people are unable to access the aid they need is indescribable,” SIRF Chair Hugh Fenton said in a statement.

The forum asks donors to ensure funds are made impartial, also taking into account the needs of Palestinian, Iraqi, Sudanese and Lebanese refugees, and also address bureaucratic impediments to aid delivery, such as delays in formal registration and rigid donor requirements.

Meanwhile, the International Rescue Committee, also a member of the SIRF, called on donors to also prioritize Lebanon, where there is growing tension between refugees and host communities in terms of jobs, food and housing. Bryce Perry, IRC’s program head in Lebanon, said: “Communities hosting refugees in Lebanon are stretched to the breaking point.”

Donor aid to Lebanon has been lagging compared with other host countries, such as Jordan. A UNHCR official previously told Devex this is partly political due to the presence of Hezbollah considered a terrorist organization by Western donors in the country.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.