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British aid agencies are warning that governments must urgently scale up their response to the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, ahead of the second Kuwait Donor Conference on Wednesday.
Christian Aid, CAFOD, International Rescue Committee UK, War Child, Handicap International UK, Mercycorps and Refugees International have commended the British government for committing more than £500 million to respond to the crisis – its largest ever humanitarian response, making it the second biggest donor to the crisis. But they warn that governments around the world must use the Kuwait conference to provide new, flexible and long-term funding.
Rob Williams, CEO of War Child, said: ‘The needs are overwhelming, and the crisis is getting worse by the day. The $1.5 billion requested at the first Kuwait Donor Conference for Syria last year has only been half-funded, and the United Nations is seeking a further $6.5 billion this year. It’s crucial that governments pledge generously in Kuwait, and it’s also vital that they actually deliver on those pledges – that the promises they make at the conference table translate into aid being delivered on the ground. We’re encouraging the UK government to continue its efforts to hold other governments to account.’
Father Simon Faddoul, President of CAFOD partner Caritas Lebanon, said: ‘This is the greatest humanitarian disaster of the 21st century, and far more needs to be done – not just in Syria, but in neighbouring countries. A quarter of Lebanon’s population are now Syrian refugees, and many are living in appalling conditions: I’ve met families struggling to survive in tents surrounded by snow, sometimes without shoes or warm clothes. Many children are unable to go to school. The crisis has caused huge political instability here in Lebanon and across the region. We’re living on a knife-edge. We simply can’t cope with the number of refugees. The rest of the world has a moral duty to assist us.’
The aid agencies are also calling for the UK government to use its influence to advocate for humanitarian access in Syria, so that food and medicine can be delivered to communities cut off by fighting.
Janet Symes from Christian Aid said: ‘At the moment, it’s impossible for aid agencies to reach some of the worst-hit areas. The re-emergence of polio is just one dreadful consequence of the fact that medicine isn’t getting through. There needs to be the political will to push for a pause in the fighting, and, as a member of the Security Council, the UK must redouble its efforts to push for humanitarian access. The UN Security Council’s Presidential Statement on Access in all areas of Syria called for practical and rapid action, and it is essential that progress is made on that commitment.’
In Syria itself, 9.3 million people are in need of aid, and 6.5 million have been forced from their homes. A further 2.3 million people have crossed to neighbouring countries as refugees.