UN appeals for $10bn to support 24 million Syrians in need

World Food Programme says people from war-torn country are ‘hanging by a thread’

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UN agencies appealed for more than $10 billion to support Syrians in need for 2021 and warned 24 million people were in need of assistance, four million more than in 2020.

The UN said the money would help provide shelter, food, water, sanitation, health services, education, vaccinations for children and job training opportunities.

As a major EU-hosted conference on the future of the country began, the World Food Programme said food prices increased by 222 per cent in the past 12 months amid the continued conflict, fuel shortages and a currency crisis.

It said 60 per cent of people in Syria did not know from where their next meal would come.

At the 2020 conference on Syria in Brussels, $5.5bn was raised.

UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said that there was less fighting “but no peace dividend”.

“It has been 10 years of despair and disaster for Syrians. Now plummeting living conditions, economic decline and Covid-19 result in more hunger, malnutrition and disease,” he said.

Achim Steiner, the head of the UN’s development programme, said “countries that host refugees are struggling to provide basic services like health care and water”.

“For refugees from Syria and their host communities in the region, the Covid-19 pandemic hit during a decade-long crisis, stretching them to breaking point.

“At present, poverty and inequality are skyrocketing as hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs and livelihoods,” he said.

The UN is asking for at least $4.2bn to help those in Syria and $5.8bn for those Syrians outside the country, in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt.

The WFP said it needed $375 million before August to bolster its operations in Syria and help about 4.8 million people a month. Food rations to most of those people have been slashed by 30 per cent to stretch finances.

Another $259m was requested to support the 2.2 million Syrian refugees in the wider region who receive WFP aid.

“Syrians are hanging by a thread and, while the world is transfixed by a global pandemic that is forcing everyone to look inwards, we must not forget the world’s weakest countries,” said Corinne Fleischer, the WFP’s director for the Mena region.

“We are grateful for the support of our donors over the years. Their contributions have saved lives. But the Syrian people need their support more than ever before.”

The agency said the financial crisis in Lebanon, home to about 1.5 million Syrian refugees, exacerbated the situation.

The WFP said that about a quarter of refugees in Jordan were food insecure and another two thirds are at risk of becoming so. Authorities estimate there are about 1.3 million Syrian refugees are in the country.

The UN’s high commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi said the “hard-earned gains we’ve collectively achieved over years” were at risk.

“The international community cannot turn their backs on the refugees or their hosts.

“Refugees and their hosts must get nothing less than our unfaltering commitment, solidarity and support. A failure to do so will be catastrophic for the people and the region,” he said.