Ahead of a key international conference on supporting Syria and the region, taking place in Brussels today and tomorrow (9-10th May), the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is calling on the EU and donors from the wider international community to ramp up their efforts to address the escalating humanitarian crisis in Syria.

Now in its twelfth year of conflict, humanitarian needs in Syria have reached an all-time high. Today, some 14.6 million people - 70% of the country’s population - need help to meet their basic survival needs. At the same time, costs continue to soar, with the price of basic foodstuffs like bread, rice and oil almost doubling in the last year. 

Despite an additional 1.2 million people in Syria requiring humanitarian aid in 2022, both levels of funding and the political attention required to address the crisis are diminishing. At the end of 2021, the humanitarian response for Syria remained less than half funded, with just 46% of required funds committed - the lowest levels seen in six years. 

With needs rising, it is vital that aid can reach all those who need it. Yet since 2020, UN Security Council deliberations over a vital mechanism to bring aid into Syria through neighbouring countries have resulted in the number of authorised border crossing points being reduced from four to just one, completely cutting off UN cross-border assistance to the Northeast. Millions of Syrians in the Northwest now rely mostly on assistance that is delivered through this one crossing. In July this year the UN cross-border operation will end if it is not re-authorised by the UN Security Council, the humanitarian impact of which will likely prove devastating to families already on the brink.

The IRC is calling on the EU to use its convening role at the Brussels Conference to galvanise donors to ramp up funding to Syria and the region, and to collectively chart a course to ensure humanitarian aid can reach all those who need it in the country through the most effective and direct routes.

Imogen Sudbery, IRC Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy, Europe, says:

“As the international community mobilises to tackle the crisis in Ukraine, we cannot forget the staggering level of humanitarian needs in Syria. With continued fighting in many areas,  more than 12 million people in the country are acutely food insecure, and more than 800,000 children malnourished.

The sixth Brussels Conference is the year’s most important pledging moment for Syria - yet, in 2021, donors failed to come close to meeting the country’s escalating needs. Even if donors pledge the same as previous years, they will not fill this alarming and rapidly-increasing funding gap. As the leading donor to Syria over the past decade, the EU and its member states have a key role to play in encouraging others to significantly scale up their funding and support.

In their response to the Ukraine crisis, the EU, US and others have provided a strong example of how Western leaders can stand in solidarity, challenge violations of international humanitarian law and ensure refugee protection, when there is the will to do so. This week, they must apply the same commitment to the people of Syria - not only stepping up to meet humanitarian needs and supporting Syrians to rebuild their futures, but using their diplomatic weight to ensure humanitarian aid can reach people who need it most.”

Tanya Evans, IRC Syria Country Director says:

“Last year, the UN delivered on average 800 trucks of cross-border aid each month, consistently reaching 2.4 million people with lifesaving assistance in Northwest Syria. There is currently no viable alternative to this cross-border aid. It’s clear that if the UN Security Council (UNSC) does not reauthorise cross-border operations in July, this will be catastrophic for the humanitarian response - putting millions of lives on the line and forcing even more people to resort to extreme measures to cope.

Besides being a key pledging moment, world leaders must seize the opportunity of the Brussels Conference to rally support for the renewal of this critical crossborder authorisation in July. With more Syrians in need than ever before, the risk of losing this vital lifeline has never been so consequential.  . By working closely with like-minded states sitting in the UNSC, the EU should support a principled position that puts the needs and protection of Syrians at the centre of their decisions.”