May 17. 2021. 5:51

The Daily

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Syria donations shortfall could cost lives, UN and aid agencies say

Syrian children watch a puppet show performed by a local theatre group amidst the ruins of buildings destroyed during Syria’s civil war, in al-Fua, in the country’s northwestern Idlib province. Photograph: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty

The UN and relief agencies have warned that a substantial shortfall in funding for war-ravaged Syria could cost lives.

Only $6.4 billion has been pledged at the fifth annual European Union-sponsored donors’ conference rather than the target of $10 billion, the largest sum ever proposed for humanitarian aid for Syrians.

The UN, which raised $7 billion in 2019 and 2020, will have to rely on $7 billion in low-interest loans from financial institutions and donors to fill the gap in funding at a time when contributor countries are hard pressed financially by the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ahead of the conference, World Food Programme director David Beasley predicted that failure to meet rapidly rising need could lead to it reducing rations by 30 per cent.

“If we take away food when it is needed most then I have no doubt we will see a second wave of migration into Europe and extremism will flourish.”

Although the Red Cross and Red Crescent movements have urged western governments to extend financial aid for Syria’s reconstruction so refugees can go home, the EU has said there can be no assistance until there is a peace deal between the government and multi-faction opposition.

Modest efforts by Syria’s government to repair infrastructure have been limited due to the rising needs of the 80-90 per cent of the population thrust below the poverty line.

Syria is one of the most sanctioned countries on the planet. Its economy is also closely connected to the collapsing Lebanese economy. The Syrian currency has rapidly depreciated and, due to a lack of hard currencies, imports of food and medicine have been drastically cut. Consequently, there are shortages of essential items and prices are soaring.

Face poverty

Subsidised fuel and cooking gas are rationed and distributed via smart card so the poorest Syrians should receive their share, but when supplies are tight they are the first to suffer.

Syrian refugees face poverty and discrimination in neighbouring countries. Lebanon has urged the 1.5 million Syrians it hosts to go home. Seeking to exploit anti-Syrian resentment, Lebanese politicians have blamed them for the country’s dire economic and social straits.

Initially welcomed in Turkey, 3.6-4 million Syrian refugees dwelling in communities across the country have grown unpopular with Turks due to an economic downturn.

Beset by combined economic and Covid crises, Jordan can no longer afford to house more than a million Syrians as that country has few resources and suffers chronic water scarcity.

Although Syria’s military situation has stabilised with the government in control of 70 per cent of the country, the Kurds 25 per cent, and Turkey five per cent, peace is not on the horizon.