An appeal for international aid to help desperate Syrians who have fled the country during the seven-year war has fallen short of its target despite warnings that millions face a lifetime marred by extreme poverty, humanitarian officials said on Wednesday.
The United Nations humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said that he expected international donors to pledge $4.4 billion for Syria and its neighbours for 2018 to help the victims of the world’s largest refugee crisis.
“We’ve made a good start,” he told reporters during the two-day conference in Brussels despite the pledges short of the UN’s $7 billion target. They amounted to less than half of the $9.7 billion pledged at a similar conference last year for 2017-18.
“We would like our appeal today to have been fully funded,” he said. “We’re talking about a large sum of money and there’s a lot of pressure on the financiers.”
The pledges came despite warnings from the UN’s refugee agency that the majority of refugees in Jordan and Lebanon were living below the poverty line and unable to pay for basic education and medical needs.
Some 500,000 people have died in the conflict, while more than 5.6 million Syrians have been driven into prolonged exile outside of the country.
In Lebanon, some 60 per cent of the nearly one million registered Syrian refugees live on less than $2.90 a day, according to the agency.
Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, told the conference that the plight of Syrians was getting worse. “The bitter truth is that despite all our combined efforts conditions have deteriorated,” he said. “Lebanon continues to be a big refugee camp.”
Despite the worsening conditions, officials said they were barely maintaining the level of help they were able provide last year. More than 13 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance because of the war.
The EU, UK and Germany were among the major contributors of the 85 countries attending the meeting on Wednesday that was jointly hosted by the UN and the EU. Germany pledged $1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) for 2018 and subsequent years.
Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s special envoy to Syria, warned on Tuesday of a looming new crisis among the 2.5 population of Idlib in the country’s northwest, following the fall of eastern Ghouta to regime forces.
The EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called on Iran, Russia and Turkey to use their influence with the regime of Bashar Al Assad to call a ceasefire as the prelude to a political deal that would end the suffering of the Syrian people.
The EU and a number of other countries have refused to rebuild to Syria until the start of meaningful peace moves to end the conflict.