The International Rescue Committee (IRC) welcomes the pledges made yesterday at the VIII EU-hosted Brussels Conference on ‘Supporting the future of Syria and the region.’ However, the IRC warns that the pledged amount is alarmingly insufficient to address the unprecedented level of needs on the ground, which are at an all-time high.

Tanya Evans, the IRC’s Country Director in Syria, said, 

“Following 13 years of conflict, the devastating impact of funding shortfalls is deeply concerning and the total of €7.5 billion pledged is woefully inadequate to cover the rising needs in Syria. Ongoing funding cuts continue to significantly impact the delivery of aid in Syria, forcing many agencies including the IRC, to make difficult decisions regarding program closures. This is resulting in critical services being cut for hundreds of thousands of people, adding undue pressure on remaining services. For example, over 136 health facilities in northwest Syria alone are set to be shut down by the end of June due to a lack of further funding, leaving the population of the northwest with drastically reduced access to health services.

“Syrians are enduring not only the ravages of protracted conflict but also a crippling lack of services, severe economic decline, and currency devaluation, all of which have been exacerbated by last year’s catastrophic earthquakes. Now more than ever we need to see sustained and flexible funding to meet both immediate and long-term needs of the people of Syria.”

More than 16 million people - 70% of the population - in Syria are currently in need of humanitarian aid. Syria now ranks among the top ten countries globally with the highest number of people facing hunger. According to the UN, over half of the population, 12.9 million Syrians, are struggling with inadequate food supplies, while another 2.6 million are on the brink of food insecurity. The rates of acute and chronic malnutrition in children are alarmingly high. In 2023, the humanitarian response was more than 60% unfunded, and yesterday’s pledges continued the trend of funding declines. 

Harlem Desir, IRC Senior Vice President Europe, said,

“The EU, together with the broader international community, must use its influence to raise the bar for people impacted by one of the world’s most severe and most forgotten crises. This is not only a vital expression of solidarity with Syrian refugees, but with host countries in the EU’s southern neighbourhood who are in urgent need of greater support and responsibility-sharing.

“The IRC welcomes the EU’s efforts to galvanise donors to better support Syria and the region through this annual conference, but it’s clear that more funding is needed to both address people’s immediate needs and build their resilience for the future. It is also vital that international leaders stand firm against human rights violations against Syrian refugees in neighboring countries such as Lebanon, and to expand safe routes out of the region, including refugee resettlement, which enables refugees to be transferred from their host country to another more capable of meeting their needs.”

The IRC calls on the international community to ensure continued and sustained commitment to aid delivery across all parts of Syria. This approach is crucial for providing life-saving assistance and promoting recovery in an effective manner. We urge donors to uphold this commitment and to work together to enhance the efficiency and reach of humanitarian efforts across Syria.

The IRC has been working in Syria since 2012, and we are currently responding to ever-deepening humanitarian and recovery needs in the northwest and northeast of the country. With more than 1,000 staff and working across multiple sectors, last year we reached more than 1.9 million clients inside Syria, either through direct programmes or in partnership with local organizations. The IRC promotes economic recovery through empowering Syrians by offering job training, apprenticeships and small business support. Our teams support early childhood development and provide counseling 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. We also support Syrian refugees in neighboring Lebanon and Jordan.