The International Rescue Committee (IRC)’s Syria programmes funding from the UK Government has been reduced by 75% from last year. Today, almost 97,500 Syrians - including over 55,000 women and girls - are being left without lifesaving services, as the IRC has been forced to shut programmes across northern Syria, due to the drastic reduction in funding from the UK Government.

In particular, vital areas such as economic recovery and protection have been severely cut back. Despite Syrians facing the worst economic crisis and highest levels of need since the start of the conflict 10 years ago, funding for the IRC’s economic recovery programmes was halted in March and two livelihoods centres were forced to close, which were providing cash assistance and employment training to support displaced Syrians. These programmes played a crucial role in building resilience and self-sufficiency to help Syrians help themselves and were reaching close to 36,500 people across northern Syria, more than half of whom were women.

Additionally, 47,000 people are now no longer receiving protection support through the IRC as a result of the FCDO funding cuts. This includes support for those experiencing gender-based violence (GBV), a stated priority of the UK Government. Protection support - including for GBV - is essential for helping women, children and those with special needs recover and heal from the violence and trauma they have lived through over the past decade of the conflict. 

While the majority of FCDO-funding to IRC health programmes in Syria has been saved from the worst of the aid cuts, there is still a risk that a number of health centres could be forced to close by the end of the year. If this happens, we expect that around 300,000 individuals will have reduced and limited access to primary health care, preventative and health promotion services, as well as essential mental health and psychosocial support services in northwest Syria.

Melanie Ward, UK Executive Director at the International Rescue Committee, said:

“The UK Government has signalled its intention to be a global leader on gender inequality, yet it is simultaneously implementing devastating and widespread cuts to its aid budget, where vulnerable groups, like women and girls, are being hit hardest. 

“These cuts and the way they are being implemented, the most opaque way, will have wide-ranging and long-standing impacts on the world’s poorest people– in particular, women and girls.”

Su'ad Jarbawi, Regional Vice President, MENA, at the International Rescue Committee, said:

“The UK’s decision to enact cuts to Syria aid a decade into the conflict is deeply concerning. The fact that frontline NGOs, including the IRC, are being forced to close down lifesaving programmes now, during a time of greatest need, should be a real cause for concern. 

“More Syrians need aid today than at any time during the decade-long conflict. The humanitarian situation in the country is rapidly deteriorating, as COVID cases rise and people face a serious hunger crisis. Syrians need certainty and support. These cuts will lead only to suffering and misery.”