Ahead of a key international conference taking place in Brussels today and tomorrow (14-15th June) on supporting Syria and the region, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) warns that more funding is vital to prevent humanitarian needs in Syria from spiraling further out of control.

Twelve years since the start of the conflict in Syria, humanitarian needs have increased to alarming levels. Today, more than 15 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, a 23% increase since 2020. Driven by more than a decade of conflict and displacement, soaring inflation and a currency plunge, 90% of people in Syria are now living below the poverty line. Populations in areas directly affected by the deadly February earthquakes, many of whom were already reliant on humanitarian assistance to survive, continue to deal with the devastating consequences more than 4 months on. 

Although humanitarian needs across the country are at their highest, the humanitarian response remains chronically underfunded, with the current humanitarian response plan only receiving 11% of the required funds for 2023 to date. Last year marked the highest funding deficit for the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan since the conflict started in 2012, with only 49% of the needs covered and a funding gap exceeding $2.2 billion. As the international community meets today, the IRC is calling on the EU to urgently mobilise donors to ramp up funding for both Syria, and neighbouring countries who continue to host millions of refugees in the face of deteriorating economic and living conditions domestically.

Harlem Désir, IRC Senior Vice President, Europe, says: 

“This conference is the year’s most important pledging moment for Syria. Yet, in contrast to donors’ impressive response following the deadly earthquake that struck the region in February, there remains an urgent need to adequately address the continued humanitarian catastrophe in the country - the response for which is currently less than half funded.

"This week, it’s vital that the EU uses its position as the leading donor to Syria to encourage others to significantly scale up their funding and support to the spiralling situation both inside Syria and in neighboring countries. With more people in need of assistance than ever before, it is crucial that aid can continue to reach all those who need it. As well highlighting the dire funding shortfall, the EU should also seize this opportunity to rally support for the reauthorisation of UN-led cross-border aid in the UN Security Council before it is due to expire on July 10th. The loss of this vital and secure lifeline would be disastrous, putting millions of lives on the line and likely condemn millions of Syrians to even greater suffering in the year to come.”

Tanya Evans, the IRC’s Country Director in Syria says:

“Across Syria, basic services have been eroded to such an extent that current levels of humanitarian assistance, despite continuing to reach millions of Syrians each year, simply cannot fill the gaps at the scale required. This is all happening as Syria’s economy continues to ​free-fall​, reducing the ability of Syrians to provide for themselves and further deepening the vulnerability of Syrian families. Today, as the international community convenes in Brussels, donors must not only look to guarantee continued assistance, but also work to empower those affected to increase their own resilience and agency. As we look towards another year of record needs, we are yet again reminded that there can be no genuine recovery for the vast majority of Syrians unless we see both a lasting political solution to the crisis, and a principled humanitarian response that addresses people's essential needs and fosters greater self-reliance.”

On 19 July the UN Security Council will meet to vote on the renewal of the UN-led cross-border mechanism in Northwest Syria. The IRC calls for the UN Security Council to re-authorise cross-border access to populations in Northwest Syria, for a minimum of 12 months. This will ensure that over 2 million Syrians continue to have access to lifesaving assistance including food, water, shelter and medical assistance every month.

The IRC's work in Syria

The IRC has been working in Syria since 2012, responding to needs in northwest and northeast Syria. The IRC promotes economic recovery with job training, apprenticeships and small business support. Our teams support early childhood development and provide counselling and protection services for women and children, particularly for survivors of violence. We support health facilities and mobile health teams with critical trauma services and primary, reproductive and mental health services. Our cholera response includes provision of essential supplies for cholera prevention, control and treatment; training of clinical staff and community health workers on case detection, management and referral; as well as health education and hygiene awareness through house-to-house visits. We also support Syrian refugees in neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan.

Through our cash programming, livelihoods interventions, and agricultural initiatives, we not only address people's essential needs and aid in their recovery from shocks but also foster self-reliance and economic stability. Our comprehensive approach to early recovery involves supporting businesses in building resilience, collaborating with Village Savings and Loans Associations, and offering training and apprenticeship opportunities through Livelihood Centres.