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UNHCR warns funding cuts threaten aid to Syrian refugees, hosts

A four-year-old Syrian refugee stands barefoot outside her family’s shelter in an informal settlement in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. © UNHCR/Dalia Khamissy

 

As a major international conference on Syria gets underway in Brussels, vital assistance for millions of refugees and the communities hosting them could face substantial cuts.

GENEVA - As a major international conference on Syria gets underway today, vital assistance for millions of refugees and the communities hosting them could face substantial cuts due to a lack of funding, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is warning.

The ‘Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region,’ on April 4 and 5, comes at a time of uncertainty for Syria. Negotiations are underway to end six years of bloody war, but serious flare-ups of fighting continue on the ground.

The conference also comes at a time of growing humanitarian need, with 13.5 million people requiring assistance within Syria – including 6.3 million internally displaced people – and over five million refugees seeking safety in neighbouring countries.

“The situation is getting desperate,” Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement. “We are already seeing children who aren’t able to go to school, families who cannot access adequate shelter or provide for their basic needs.”

The ongoing conflict remains the largest displacement crisis in the world. But despite the growing needs of those forced to flee their homes, many are instead facing potential cuts to services because of a lack of funding.

“We recognize and applaud the donations made so far, but the simple truth is that funding isn’t keeping up with needs.”

An appeal for the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan, or 3RP, for 2017 was launched in Helsinki in January - seeking US$4.63 billion. So far, only US$433 millon — or 9 per cent of the funding sought — has been received, aggravating an already precarious situation

Last year’s plan received just 63 per cent (US$2.88 billion) of the US$4.54 billion requested. This has left Syrian refugees – over 70 per cent of whom are women and children – facing the prospect of deep cuts to health, shelter, protection and other services.

The funds are vital to supporting the most vulnerable, like Mariam, a 32-year-old mother of five from Aleppo who has been living in Jordan since 2012. Since early last year, she has been receiving UNHCR monthly cash assistance to help her and her family meet some of their basic living costs.

“Before receiving UNHCR cash assistance, I had to send my two eldest children to work instead of attending school,” she said. “This academic year, they are back to their studies and doing well. Without this monthly support, I will be obliged to take them out of school.”

Previously, Mariam had racked up debts, simply to cover basic expenses such as rent and utilities, as well as items such as clothing. And as the funding gap grows, the impact of a lack of resources is already being felt by many.

“We recognize and applaud the donations made so far, but the simple truth is that funding isn’t keeping up with needs,” added Grandi.