Syria: Donors pledge $6 billion, but will the money come?

Forty-one donors have pledged Wednesday a combined $6 billion for critical humanitarian programs in 2017 and another $3.7 billion for 2018 for the people of Syria reeling under a devastating conflict since 2011.

The amounts were released by the United Nations at the Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region held in the Belgian capital, Brussels, under the UN aegis.

The pledges made will support humanitarian relief, protection and resilience-building for people in need. It will also help the war-torn country’s neighbors shoulder the heavy burden from the spill-over effects of the crisis, a UN press release said.

In its seventh year now, the conflict in Syria is the largest humanitarian challenge in the world – 13.5 million men, women and children inside the country are in need of urgent assistance and there are now more than five million Syrian refugees in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Many more have made dangerous journey to Europe and farther afield.

UN-coordinated response plans for Syria and the region require a total of $8 billion for 2017 alone, and the funding will contribute to UN and its partners efforts to reach some 12.8 million people this year.

The amounts pledged for 2017 are close to the $8 billion needed, but the question remains whether the money pledged will be disbursed or if the pledges were mere empty promises, as it often happened in the past.

The conference – co-chaired by UN, the European Union (EU), Germany, Kuwait, Norway, Qatar and the United Kingdom – started with thematic sessions on the humanitarian needs and challenges within the country and on ways to strengthen resilience of refugees and host communities in the context of the crisis, the press release added.

Addressing the opening session of the conference, UN Secretary-General António Guterres drew attention to the plight of those suffering as a result of the conflict in the war-ravaged country and urged the international community to increase support for both people within Syria as well as for the millions seeking refuge beyond its borders and for the communities hosting them.

Guterres highlighted that as the conflict in Syria grinded on, it continued to extract a harrowing toll on civilians in a war that “Nobody is winning” but that “everybody is losing.”

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