Donors pledge $9.7 billion to support war-torn Syria at UN-backed conference

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UNITED NATIONS, April 6 (APP): Forty-one donors have pledged
a combined $6 billion for critical humanitarian programmes in
2017 and another $3.7 billion for 2018 for the people of Syria,
reeling under a devastating conflict since 2011 at a United Nations-supported conference in Brussels, the Belgian capital.
Earlier in the day, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
drew attention the plight of those suffering as a result of
the conflict in the war-ravaged country and urged the
international community to increase support for both people
within Syria as well as for the millions seeking refuge
beyond its borders and for the communities hosting them.
“The need for humanitarian aid and the protection of
Syrian civilians has never been greater [and] the humanitarian
appeal for a single crisis has never been higher,” Guterres
said at the opening session of the Brussels Conference on
Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region on Wednesday.
“UN agencies and our partners are determined to reach
everyone in need, through all possible means,” he emphasized.
The pledges made will support humanitarian relief,
protection and resilience-building for people in need.
It will also help the war-torn country’s neighbours
shoulder the heavy burden from the spill-over effects of
the crisis.
In its seventh year now, the conflict in Syria is the
largest humanitarian challenge in the world – 13.5 million
men, women and children inside the country are in need of
urgent assistance and there are now more than five million
Syrian refugees in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
Many more have made dangerous journey to Europe and farther
afield.
UN-coordinated response plans for Syria and the region
require a total of $8 billion for 2017 alone, and the
funding will contribute to UN and its partners efforts
to reach some 12.8 million people this year.
The conference – co-chaired by UN, the European Union
(EU), Germany, Kuwait, Norway, Qatar and the United Kingdom
– started with thematic sessions on the humanitarian needs
and challenges within the country and on ways to strengthen
resilience of refugees and host communities in the context
of the crisis.
In his opening remarks, Guterres highlighted that as the
conflict in Syria grinded on, it continued to extract a
harrowing toll on civilians.
“Nobody is winning this war. Everybody is losing,” he
said.
Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children remain
in siege-like conditions, beyond the reach of humanitarian
assistance and ‘persistent’ violations of international
humanitarian law remains a reality in the country, Guterres
said, noting: “as yesterday’s reports of use of chemical
weapons reminded us again.”
Hailing the countries hosting Syrian refugees, the UN
chief also underlined the importance of building the
resilience of host communities and to provide them with
the support they need.
“But we also must step up international budget,” he
added, noting that funding remains – utterly insufficient”.
He also urged developed countries, in particular, not
to close borders or reduce resettlement and relocation
opportunities and called on the international community
to protect the integrity of the international refugee
protection regime and emphasized that the world must share
responsibility for Syrian refugees more equitably.
“This conference must represent a moment of truth, when
the international community takes decisive steps to increase
its support for the victims of the Syria conflict, and for
the neighbouring countries that are providing a safe haven for
millions of refugees,” the Secretary-General said.
Welcoming the pledges, Stephen O’Brien, the UN Emergency
Relief Coordinator, said that the international solidarity
could not have come sooner.
“Today has been a momentous opportunity for much of the
world to come together to commit more support and solidarity
for Syrians and those affected across the region,” he said.
UN and partners have already been providing live-saving
and life-sustaining food, water, medical care and shelter
across the country. However, lack of humanitarian access,
particularly to over 4.7 million people in besieged and
hard to reach areas within the country remains a major
obstacle for aid delivery.
“We have today heard commitments from a wide range of
countries to continue to resource principled humanitarian
action through regular programmes, across conflict lines,
across borders, and via air operations,” O’Brien said,
calling on countries to translate the pledges into
actual funds.
“We now need, as soon as possible, to see these pledges
turned into cash for action.”
Also on Wednesday, Staffan De Mistura, the UN Special
Envoy for Syria and the mediator for intra-Syrian talks,
who was also at the Brussels Conference, stressed the
importance to sustain the momentum on Syria.
Bottom line: We need to send a constant, strong message,
not to ourselves but to the Syrian people that they will
not become a forgotten war,” he stated.
“They need to hear that […] they can still count on
us and hope is not given up. And I think this event, this
important conference, is in this direction.”