Syria crisis: Pledges made in Kuwait not honored, UN says
March 16, 2013
UNITED NATIONS: The UN Top Humanitarian official Valerie Amos expressed regret recently that the $1.5 billion pledged by the participants at the Donor Conference in Kuwait on January 30 to help the Syrian people have not been honored at a time the humanitarian situation is deteriorating.
She told reporters following a closed-door meeting of the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Syria that out of the $1.5 billion pledged in the Kuwait Conference, her office received only $200 million and “we have not yet received $1.3 billion of the money that was pledged.” The $1.5 billion was to be divided as follows: $500 million to the Syrian people displaced inside the country and $1 billion to the Syrians who fled their country as refugees and are now living in neighbouring countries.
According to UN statistics, only 20 percent of the $500 million and only 19 percent of the $1 billion have been cashed. On her work with the Syrian government and opposition, she said “we are doing all we can to engage in discussions, but quite frankly, this pace at which we were able to do this, is much slower than the pace at which the crisis is evolving.” “We asked for $1.5 billion for our response for the next 6 months. Those figures are already out of date given the projections we had at the end of last year and where we are now,” she said.
“The first two months of this year have been a real game changer. It demands more of us, to scale up our operations, but even if we work full tilt, the scale is outpacing whatever we do on the response side,” she added, and the funding should be stepped up to the level of needs.
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant later told reporters that his and other delegations that this sort of briefings on the humanitarian situation in syria “should be held in public and not in consultations so we would certainly support the fact that the next briefing of this kind should be held in public so that a wider audience can hear the disturbing nature of the briefings that we heard today.”
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates pledged $300 million each to help fund humanitarian efforts for millions of Syrians affected by nearly two years of conflict.
About 77 local, regional and international charity organizations took part in the conference.
UN: Syrian Civil War Leaves 5 Million in Need of Aid
March 15, 2013 ⋅
Syria’s two-year civil war has made 5 million people into refugees or aid recipients and left virtually no safe areas for civilians, the United Nations said.
“Significantly more” than 4 million Syrians are in need within the country and a further 1.1 million have fled abroad, said Radhouane Nouicer, the UN’s regional humanitarian coordinator, in a statement marking the second anniversary of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
“The civilian space is eroding as there is almost no place deemed to be safe,” he said in the statement, noting that aid funding was inadequate. “It is not possible to meet 100 percent of the needs with only 21 percent of the funding required for the first half of 2013. That math just doesn’t work. It translates into less food, fewer blankets, fewer medicines, less clean water.”
Peaceful anti-Assad protests that began in 2011 have developed into a civil war that’s killed at least 70,000 people by UN estimates. Attempts by the U.S., France and Britain to force UN Security Council action against Assad have been stymied by Russia and China.
Unless funding is increased to aid Syrian civilians, “some activities will not get off the ground or will simply stop,” Nouicer said. The funding gap for Syrians who have fled their country is $700 million, Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Beirut today.
“There is no way a gap of this magnitude can be filled with current humanitarian budgets,” he said. “We are witnessing not only a humanitarian tragedy, but also a threat to international peace and security.”
Germany wants talks to begin immediately on a French and British proposal at today’s European Union summit in Brussels to arm Syria’s rebels, German Foreign Office spokesman Andreas Peschke told reporters.
While Germany believes that aiding the insurgents is the only means to pressure Assad’s government, the question remains “how,” Peschke said.
Civil conflict means “health standards have fallen dramatically, medical facilities have been targeted and health workers killed, intimidated or detained while trying to save lives,” Robert Mardini, the International Committee of the Red Cross’s head of operations for the Near and Middle East, said in an e-mailed statement today. “Property and infrastructure have been severely damaged, leaving large areas in rubble.”
Meanwhile, the Red Cross is being denied access to detainees by the Syrian authorities.
“We have no first-hand information on the situation of detainees and this is very worrying for us,” Mardini said.
Opposition groups are marking the anniversary of the civil war — and the deaths of about 5,000 people each month — with candlelight vigils in cities around the world.
Hampered by a lack of coordination and weapons, rebel forces have made little progress in expanding zones under their control, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies said yesterday. A divided opposition has twice canceled meetings to elect an interim government this month.
Damage to infrastructure is increasing, and has reached at least $80 billion, an impossible bill for any new government, Abdullah al-Dardaria, a former Syrian minister for economic affairs, who is now working on a UN-backed reconstruction plan, told Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper.
Syrian protests that began in the southern town of Deraa called on Assad to reform, not resign. His forces responded with gunfire, saying demonstrations were led by armed criminal gangs.
About 9,000 people died in the first year. The monthly death toll has risen since about 1,000 in 2011 to about 5,000 this year.
The conflict has increasingly developed along sectarian lines, with many Sunni Muslims, who comprised 60 percent of the population before 2011, supporting the opposition while Assad is backed by members of his Alawite community. Kurds, Christians and Druze are also involved in the conflict.
If the war is not stopped, “there will be an explosion in the Middle East,” Guterres said.