World leaders meeting in London have pledged $10 billion in humanitarian relief, jobs and education to people fleeing the war in Syria. Optimism over the outcome of the conference, however, has been overshadowed by intense fighting around the rebel-held city of Aleppo.
Arriving at the Syria Donors’ conference Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry implored the world to act fast.
"If people are reduced to eating grass and leaves and killing stray animals in order to survive on a day-to-day basis, that is something that should tear at the conscience of all civilized people and we all have a responsibility to respond to it," he said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond address the media at the donors Conference for Syria in London, Feb. 4, 2016.
The response was better than many had hoped for - $10 billion were pledged for 2016, and a further $5 billion in the years up to 2020. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon hailed the achievement.
“Never has the international community raised so much money on a single day for a single crisis,” he said.
The money will help provide millions with life-saving care and give refugees access to education and jobs.
The Amar Foundation, an aid agency, provides schooling and health care across the region. Its chair, Emma Nicholson, welcomed the pledges – but said world leaders must keep their promises.
“Last year, [only] 35 percent of the pledges were forthcoming. And of course there’s always not just forthcoming expenditure, there’s the handing over of the funding, and on top of that is the actual expenditure of the money," she said. "So at the very far end of the line, those children waiting for education in Syria and the region, they still are waiting.”
Syria’s neighbors pledged to open their economies to provide more jobs for refugees - aided by $40 billion in loans and the opening of European markets.
The optimism in London was overshadowed by the breakdown of talks between Syria’s warring parties in Geneva.
A surge in fighting has extinguished any fading hopes of a cease-fire.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed by Russian air support and Hezbollah fighters, have cut off the rebels’ supply route into Aleppo. Turkey says around 70,000 refugees are fleeing toward its border.
Moscow has accused Turkey of preparing for a ground incursion to prevent Aleppo from falling into government hands. There was no immediate response from Ankara.