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“We must not accept the status quo”: Conference on support for the people in Syria

The situation in Syria remains catastrophic.

The situation in Syria remains catastrophic., © Welthungerhilfe

30.03.2021 - Article

The situation in Syria remains catastrophic. Today, urgently needed financial aid will be pooled at a joint EU and UN conference in Brussels. Germany will pledge 1.7 billion euro.

The country has been torn apart, the people are weary of the conflict, aid organisations lack resources. Ten years after the conflict in Syria began, there is still no long-term solution in sight. The dramatic humanitarian situation was exacerbated still further in the past year, when the COVID-19 pandemic descended on a medical infrastructure that was already permanently damaged. Inflation has driven food prices up further: a loaf of bread, a kilo of tomatoes or a bottle of oil now cost almost thirty times as much as people paid in 2011. Four out of five Syrians now depend on humanitarian assistance for the bare minimum they need to survive, according to United Nations statistics.

During the conference, Foreign Minister Maas said the following with regard to the situation on the ground:

Today, we are confronted with the question: What can we do to give people new hope for a better future for Syria? First and foremost, we must not accept the status quo.

Save the Children is caring for children and young mothers

The war has hit Syrian children particularly hard. Many have only known their country in a state of conflict. Due to the dramatic increase in food insecurity, more and more children are suffering from malnutrition, in some cases with serious health consequences.

To alleviate their suffering, the non-governmental organisation Save the Children went to Syria in 2012 and is still active, for example in camps for internally displaced persons in the north of the country. Save the Children regularly examines children for signs of malnutrition and transfers malnourished children and pregnant women to specialist treatment centres. The organisation also advises pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers on appropriate nutrition and hygiene practices for babies and toddlers. Here, Save the Children places a particular focus on psychosocial support. As many families cannot afford fresh food such as fruit and vegetables, Save the Children also distributes vouchers to families with pregnant or breastfeeding women and children so that they can purchase fresh vegetables and fruit or even bread from local markets. The Federal Foreign Office has supported the project with funds to the tune of around five million euro since 2019.

Assistance across borders

The situation is different in the northwest of the country, where need is especially great. Idlib province is regarded as the last opposition stronghold. Significant obstacles have to be overcome for assistance to reach northwestern Syria across the territories controlled by Damascus. Yet four million people live here whose survival depends almost entirely on humanitarian assistance. Many of them have already been driven from their homes on several occasions.

For many years it has been possible to provide assistance for the people in Idlib from across the Turkish border – thanks to the UN Security Council cross-border resolution. This resolution expires in July 2021. If Russia and China use their veto power to block a further extension, the lives of millions of people will be at stake. Yet for now aid supplies can still be delivered.

In 2021 Germany has so far paid 40 million euro into the UN fund for cross-border humanitarian assistance in Syria. This can be used to fund the work of international and above all local non-governmental organisations alongside UN organisations such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to ensure people’s survival.

This year, the Welthungerhilfe, for example, has used money from the fund to provide 240 refugee families with robust living containers. The containers were much better than tents for withstanding the hard winter and the flooding in early February. The Welthungerhilfe also distributes vouchers with which people in need can purchase food, clothing or fuel.

Germany stands alongside the Syrian people

To ensure that the people in Syria continue to receive the help they need to survive, Germany pledged a total of 1.7 billion euro for 2021 at today’s donor conference organised by the EU and the UN. Of this, just under 1.1 billion euro comes from the budget of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, 625 million euro from humanitarian assistance funds and a further 40 million euro from Federal Foreign Office stabilisation funds. Germany continues to stand alongside millions of Syrians and will work in both a financial and a political context to ensure that their suffering is alleviated and to maintain a peace prospect.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas commented on Germany’s pledge:

The Syrian tragedy must not be allowed to continue for another decade. To end it, we need new hope. And for this our pledges are urgently required – here and now.

Germany is the second largest donor of humanitarian aid to Syria. Since 2012, Germany has made available more than four billion euro for humanitarian assistance alone.

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