By Noemi Jabois
Beirut, May 9 (EFE).- Ahead of the European Union’s donor conference for Syria, NGOs in the Arab country warn that people’s needs are deepening more than before amid a serious economic crisis exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The sixth Brussels conference on supporting the future of Syria and the region starting Monday comes as the funding pledged for the war-ravaged country has declined within the past two years and the United Nations’ Humanitarian Response Plan 2021 failed to raise even half of the required $4.2 billion.
“We are worried that attention is turning away from Syria given other crises unfolding in the world like Ukraine,” Samah Hadid from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) tells Efe.
“Syria cannot afford another decade of hardship and international solidarity is needed more than ever,” he says.
After 11 years of conflict, the Syrian population is facing difficulties due to an “unprecedented” economic crisis that is “forcing them to skip meals, burn clothes to stay warm, send their children to work in order to survive,” according to Hadid.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has worsened the “chronic” food insecurity in the country, with wheat and fuel getting further out of reach.
Hence, Hadid is worried about current and possible future funding cuts to Syria.
“Fourteen million Syrians now depend on humanitarian aid, so any further cuts to aid will put lives at risk, will mean hunger will grow and families won’t be able to meet their basic needs,” he points out.
Nicole Hark, the deputy director of the Mercy Corps NGO in Syria, stresses that the war in Ukraine has only worsened an already dire situation, expressing her concern about “the rising food needs and people’s ability to access food.”
“If the funding for Syria is not increased, dire consequences will be felt immediately,” she says.
Syria’s healthcare sector has been suffering, too, as many hospitals and clinics have been damaged or destroyed during the war.
A large number of medical personnel have either fled the country or died, while the majority of health facilities regularly experience medicine shortages.
Claire San Filippo, who heads the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Syria mission, warns that the humanitarian response does not match the needs of Syrians.
She tells Efe that the MSF witnessed how several health centers had to reduce their activities or even shut down due to declining funding throughout 2021, which led the organization to increase its services to help fill gaps.
But the cuts have put more pressure on the NGOs operating in Syria, as well as the civilians, according to San Filippo.
All NGOs agree that the humanitarian crisis has been particularly hard on northwestern Syria, the last opposition stronghold and where 2.8 million displaced people live in overcrowded camps.EFE