BRUSSELS (AP) — International donors on Tuesday pledged $6.7 billion to help Syrians and neighboring countries hosting refugees, but fell well short of the UN target for assistance to millions of people in conflict-torn Syria who depend on aid to survive.
European Neighborhood Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi has acknowledged that the war in Ukraine and the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic are taking a heavy toll on donor economies.
Yet “donors are now sending a very strong signal to Syria and this region that we are ready to do even more than before,” he said.
The United Nations was seeking $10.5 billion for 2022. It says 14.6 million people in Syria depend on aid – 1.2 million more than in 2021 – and more than 90% of Syrians live in poverty. Around 3.9 million people in Syria go hungry every day.
This is the second year in a row that commitments have fallen short of expectations. Last year the EU, US and other nations pledged $6.4 billion, with the UN asking for $10 billion to meet vital needs.
Earlier, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned that Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine was significantly worsening the plight of poverty-stricken Syrians. Borrell said 60% of the Syrian population “are food insecure and barely know where the next meal will come from.”
“The Russian war will increase food and energy prices and the situation in Syria will get worse,” he said.
Borrell said the 27-nation bloc would provide an additional 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) to Syria this year, bringing the annual total to 1.5 billion euros ($1.6 billion) . He said the EU would also provide 1.56 billion euros ($1.65 billion) next year. The United States has pledged over $800 million.
Borrell promised that the EU would maintain sanctions against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad and stressed that there can be no normalized relations until Syrian refugees are “safe to return home”.
Food prices around the world were already on the rise, but the war in Ukraine – a major supplier of wheat – made matters worse. The impact is worsening the plight of millions of Syrians driven from their homes by the 11-year-old war. Many rely on international aid to survive.
The war in Ukraine has also created a whole new group of refugees. European nations and the United States have rushed to help more than 5.5 million Ukrainians who have fled to neighboring countries, as well as more than 7 million people displaced within Ukraine’s borders.
Half of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million has been displaced by the conflict.
Aid agencies had hoped to draw some of the world’s attention to Syria at Tuesday’s EU-hosted conference. The funding also goes to help the 5.7 million Syrian refugees living in neighboring countries, including Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
Non-EU country Norway has pledged 1.5 billion crowns ($156 million) for 2022 (asterisk) (asterisk) if it were to be 2022?.
Imogen Sudbery, of the aid group International Rescue Committee, urged the EU to do more, noting that “even if donors promise the same as in previous years, they will not close this alarming and rapidly growing funding gap. “.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry criticized the Brussels event, saying neither the Syrian government nor its ally Russia was taking part. He said the conference was organized by countries that impose sanctions on the “Syrian people” and block reconstruction.
“The countries organizing or participating in this conference are occupying or supporting the occupation of part of the Syrian territories and looting the resources of the Syrian people,” the ministry said. The term “occupation” referred to the hundreds of American troops present in the oil-rich eastern regions of Syria.
Borrell said Russia was not invited due to the war in Ukraine.
“We invite partners who have a genuine interest in contributing to world peace,” he said. The UN decided not to co-host this year’s conference because the EU refused to invite Russia.
Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.