Syria: Humanitarian appeal almost doubles

7 September, 2012
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator sees for herself the destruction and displacement in Syria during one of her visits to the country earlier this year. Credit: OCHA/Jutta Hinkkanen.
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator sees for herself the destruction and displacement in Syria during one of her visits to the country earlier this year. Credit: OCHA/Jutta Hinkkanen.

United Nations agencies and their humanitarian partners today increased their appeal for Syria—from US$180 million to $347 million—to scale up their response to a deepening crisis affecting an estimated 2.5 million people.

“The number one priority for the people inside Syria at the moment is a message of appeal for an end to the violence. That is what they need and what they want. At the moment, the entire civilian population inside Syria is gripped by fear and despair,” said OCHA’s Operations Director, John Ging, at the fifth Syrian Humanitarian Forum in Geneva.

Humanitarian agencies have warned that civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence. Thousands of homes, hospitals and other essential infrastructure have been destroyed, and the worsening insecurity is making it harder for aid organizations to reach the people who need assistance.  

“The basis for that fear is very real. We see the numbers that are being killed, the increasing intensity of the violence, in terms of the destruction, and also the despair grounded in the fact that the people do not see any prospect for an end to this horrendous cycle of violence,” said Mr. Ging.

More than 350 participants from Governments and humanitarian partners attended the forum to discuss the need to increase the response. The revised Syria Humanitarian Response Plan, presented at the forum, focuses on providing health care, food, shelter and education in areas most badly affected by the crisis, and which are hosting large numbers of internally displaced people.

About 1.2 million people have been internally displaced, many of them now living in schools and public buildings. According to UNICEF, some 470 schools now serve as shelters, which will affect children’s access to education when the academic year begins in mid-September.

So far, nearly a quarter of a million people have fled to the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. The Regional Refugee Response Plan, which is seeking a further $193 million for 180,000 refugees, is expected to be revised by the end of September to reflect the increase.

Mr Ging added: “The plan for responding to the refugee crisis has already been overtaken in terms of the numbers. There will be a revision of that plan by the end of the month. You can expect that there will be a significant increase in the demands placed on the donor community to provide the funding for the scaled-up operations there.”

Humanitarian organizations in Syria and in neighbouring countries have stepped up their work in recent months, but limited funding and insecurity are hampering their efforts. In August, the World Food Programme (WFP) dispatched food rations through the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to more than half a million people across all 14 governorates. In September, WFP expanded its food assistance to reach some 1.5 million people.

The World Health Organization has reported that health-care workers cannot get to work because of security concerns and inaccessible roads. There are also severe shortages of essential medicines impeding treatment and care.   

“Human action is not a solution in conflict; the solution in conflict is a political resolution that ends the conflict and takes the issues into a political process,” said Mr. Ging. “While there is failure to find that process, we in the humanitarian community have to step up and do more, in ever-more dangerous circumstances, to help people who are suffering more.”