Special forces of the Syrian Democratic Forces keep watch on March 30, 2021 in the vicinity of al-Hol camp, the larger of two…
Special forces of the Syrian Democratic Forces keep watch in the vicinity of al-Hol camp, in Syria's northeast, March 30, 2021.

The international community pledged $4.4 billion on Tuesday to assist millions of Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons this year, as the civil war entered its second decade this month with no end in sight. 

"For 10 years, Syrians have endured death, destruction, displacement and deprivation," United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a video message to the 5th Brussels conference on "Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region," which was held virtually. 

The amount falls far short of the more than $10 billion the United Nations says is needed to fully support vulnerable Syrians and refugee-hosting communities this year. This includes at least $4.2 billion for the humanitarian response inside Syria and $5.8 billion to support refugees and host communities in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, as well as Egypt and Iraq. 

FILE - A Syrian displaced woman stands at the entrance of her tent at a refugee camp, in Bar Elias, in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa valley, March 5, 2021.

Guterres expressed concern that the situation inside Syria is not improving but is instead drifting toward a state of "no war, no peace," as fighting has eased in recent months. But efforts to make progress on a political settlement have continued to flounder. 

FILE - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

In the meantime, the daily struggle for ordinary Syrians inside the country and those seeking haven in the region has worsened over the past year due to the combination of conflict, financial crises and COVID-19. 

The U.N. says more than 13 million people inside Syria need humanitarian assistance this year — a 20% increase over 2020. Hunger is on the rise, with more than 12 million Syrians facing food insecurity as poverty and soaring food prices both hit record levels. 

Across the region, 10.5 million Syrian refugees, and those hosting them, require support.   

With adequate funding, the United Nations and its partners aim to assist 12.3 million of the most vulnerable people across Syria, in addition to 5.6 million Syrian refugees.   

"For many, the humanitarian aid and protection brought by U.N. agencies and our humanitarian partners is their only source of survival," the secretary-general said. 

But at a time when the U.N. and its partners want to scale up assistance, there is concern that some of the traditionally biggest donors are cutting back their financial support. 

FILE - U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

"It is worrying — and indeed deeply concerning — to see signals from a few donors that they are reducing their aid budgets," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told the conference. "This is not the time." 

The United States announced a contribution of $596 million for 2021, which is $100 million less than last year. Britain cut its contribution by about $90 million from $371 million in 2020 to $282.6 million this year. 

On a positive note, Germany pledged a record $1.2 billion, exceeding their 2020 pledge of $1.132 billion. Some Arab Gulf countries stepped forward this year, including Saudi Arabia with $560 million and the United Arab Emirates with $30 million.  

The European Union kept its contribution the same as 2020, offering $660 million, as did Qatar, pledging $100 million. 

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