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UN Officials Urge More Aid for Syrians Crushed by Decade of War

FILE - Syrian refugees walk as they carry containers at a tent settlement in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, March 12, 2021.
FILE - Syrian refugees walk as they carry containers at a tent settlement in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, March 12, 2021.

Senior U.N. officials are urging international donors to increase aid for millions of Syrians crushed by a decade of conflict, and for the neighboring countries where they have found refuge. The appeal comes ahead of next week’s Syrian pledging conference in Brussels.

With an estimated 24 million people in Syria and as refugees in the region needing humanitarian assistance, the Brussels Ministerial will seek to raise a record $10 billion. Of that, $4.2 billion would be earmarked for more than 13 million people inside Syria, many of whom are displaced.

More than half of the appeal, $5.8 billion, will support 5.5 million Syrian refugees and 4.8 million people hosting them in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi says millions of refugees and the communities hosting them owe their survival to donor support during the past 10 years of conflict. However, he said, the strain of the protracted war has taken a heavy toll.

Grandi said refugees and host communities are beset by plummeting living conditions and economic decline, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated conditions for the refugees.

“One is the rather steep increase in the levels of poverty among displaced populations. We estimate, together with the World Bank, that about 1 million more refugees have entered severe poverty levels. And this is particularly significant in Lebanon,” he said.

Grandi said recent estimates indicate nearly 90% of the refugee population in Lebanon now lives in severe poverty. He said at least 25% of Lebanon's population also lives in acute poverty brought on by the country's severe political, financial and economic crisis.

U.N. Development Program Administrator Achim Steiner warned the pressure of COVID-19 on host countries is adding to the already huge burden they carry in caring for Syrian refugees.

“And it is against a backdrop in which their own systems, service delivery systems, are overstretched; where there are diminishing livelihood opportunities for their own citizens and where escalating risks of social tension between and within communities is actually growing,” he said.

Steiner said poverty and inequality are skyrocketing across the region. That, he says is hurting the lives and livelihoods of the refugees and of the host communities struggling to provide basic services like health care and water.

The UNHCR and UNDP chiefs agree international support is needed now more than ever to meet the humanitarian needs of the Syrian refugees. They say money is needed to build the resilience of the refugee and host communities by tackling the acute development emergency facing the region.