NEW YORK (Dispatches) – Governments are set to pledge billions of dollars in aid for Syrians at a virtual conference to help refugees enduring Syria’s ninth year of foreign-backed war, as the coronavirus and high food prices and sanctions by the U.S. and EU worsen the plight of millions.
This year, the United Nations is looking for almost $10bn for people in Syria and surrounding countries. It hopes much of that will come from the 60 governments and non-governmental agencies gathering by video link. The European Union is hosting the event.
The pledging, now an annual event, breaks down into a UN appeal of $3.8bn for aid inside Syria and $6.04bn for countries hosting refugees. Only a fraction has been raised so far.
In a report last week, the EU said in 2019 donors contributed $10bn in grants to Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
"The needs have never been greater,” said Corinne Fleischer at the World Food Programme, a UN agency.
In Syria, more than 11 million people need aid and protection, the UN says, while 6.6 million have fled to neighboring countries in the world’s largest refugee crisis.
Many Syrians face unprecedented hunger, with more than 9.3 million people lacking adequate food, while the country’s coronavirus outbreak could accelerate, the UN has said.
The combination of an economic slump and coronavirus lockdown measures and sanctions by the EU and U.S. have pushed food prices more than 200 percent higher in less than a year, according to the World Food Programme.
"The COVID-19 crisis has had an immediate and devastating impact on livelihoods of millions of Syrian refugees and their hosts in the region,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Syria has called on the United Nations to prepare a report on the legality of economic sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union against the country under the international law and relevant Security Council resolutions.
Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Ja’afari, in two identical letters addressed to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the rotating President of the Security Council Nicolas de Riviere, urged the world body to assign competent legal and political authorities with the task of preparing an urgent report on the extent to which punitive measures imposed by the U.S. administration and the 27-member EU are compatible with the UN Charter, international law, international humanitarian fundamentals and the Security Council decisions.
Ja’afari highlighted that the report should shed light on the harmful effects that the sanctions have had on the lives of ordinary Syrians, and on the ability of the United Nations to implement its humanitarian assistance programs in Syria.