United Nations seeks $10 billion in aid to help Syrian refugees and civilians

The United Nations is seeking USD $10 billion in aid to help Syria, saying civilians there continue to face attacks as well as increased hunger and poverty, as the COVID-19 pandemic compounds the “despair and disaster” of the 10 years of civil war.

The demand came ahead of a Brussels Conference on Syria, an annual event co-hosted by the UN and the European Union.

It includes $4.2 billion for the humanitarian response inside Syria and $5.8 billion for refugees and their hosts in the Middle East.

The UN said at least 24 million Syrians need aid today.

“It has been 10 years of despair and disaster for Syrians,” said UN aid chief Mark Lowcock.

“Now plummeting living conditions, economic decline and COVID-19 result in more hunger, malnutrition and disease. There is less fighting, but no peace dividend,” he said in a statement.

The fighting subsided after Russia and Turkey, which support opposing sides in the conflict, agreed to a ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib a year ago. But Russian air attacks, along with Iranian and Syrian-backed troops, continue to attack rebel outposts.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is set to address the conference on Tuesday.

On March 10, marking a decade of conflict, he said Syria is a “living nightmare” where about half the country’s children have never lived a day without war and 60 percent of Syrians are at risk of going hungry.

Earlier, Red Cross Red Crescent Movement called on international donors to help rebuild Syria, particularly to repair critical health, water and electricity services.

Rebuilding destroyed cities will take billions of dollars more and cannot start until powers involved in the conflict, including Russia and Iran, agree on a peace settlement, according to the European Union.

International Committee of the Red Cross head Peter Maurer urged world powers to reach a peace deal or face many more annual donor conferences for Syria.

“Humanitarians are here to help but the ultimate responsibility lies with parties to the conflict,” he said.