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U.N. Syrian appeal set at more than US$4B for humanitarian crisis

Some 16.7 million people need humanitarian aid in Syria, up from 15.3 million a year ago, as its devastating war drags on.

A Syrian school near the Citadel of Aleppo
A Syrian school near the Citadel of Aleppo (AN/Ahmad Sofi/Unsplash)

GENEVA (AN) — United Nations officials say Syria desparately needs US$4.07 billion in humanitarian aid after 13 years of war and destruction.

The U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator in Syria, Adam Abdelmoula, launched the appeal on Friday, days after the Syrian conflict entered its 14th year.

More than 2% of Syria’s 22 million prewar population has died in the war and most are civilians, according to U.N. and other monitoring groups.

"The Syria crisis remains one of the most deadly to civilians in the world," Abdelmoula, of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Syria, told reporters by videoconference from Damascus. "The urgency of the humanitarian situation in Syria today cannot be overstated."

Abdelmoula said 16.7 million people need some form of humanitarian aid in Syria, up from 15.3 million in 2023 and 14.6 million in 2022 – and at least 12.9 million of them are going hungry.

More than 7 million people are internally displaced, he said, and nearly as many are refugees in other countries, mainly in neighboring Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

"Hostilities continue to plague various parts of Syria and have recently seen a sharp spike, particularly in the north," he said, adding that the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza also is having "spillover effects" on people and civilian infrastructure across Syria.

On top of that, he said, Syria is vulnerable to climate shocks, including water scarcity and a 15% rainfall deficit that affected 615,000 people last year, along with heatwaves that impacted agriculture and livestock.

Northern Syria also suffered widespread destruction and death from a 7.8-magnitude earthquake and its aftershocks in Feb. 2023 that killed some 6,000 people and injured more than 12,800.


'The people of Syria deserve better'

Despite the staggering needs, just 0.11% of the U.N.'s Humanitarian Response Plan for Syria is funded, according to OCHA. That affects not only the U.N. but also partner humanitarian organizations.

The World Food Program said it was forced to end its main aid program for Syria earlier this year due to a dearth of donations. The European Union will host an aid pledging conference for Syria later this spring.

“A comprehensive political solution brokered through the U.N., and enjoying the full support of all its members, remains the ultimate imperative: the Syrian people must get a chance to live in dignity and peace," said Josep Borrell, vice president of the European Commission and the E.U.'s foreign policy chief.

Syria's economy is "in a freefall," Abdelmoula said, and basic social services are collapsing, as the currency's value plunges while prices soar for the most basic commodities.

Ninety percent of Syria's population lives below the poverty line. As a result, many Syrians risk life-threatening journeys abroad.

"We hear daily how people are forced to forego meals, pull their children from school so they can help support the family, or mothers choosing to skip their medications in order to feed their children," he said. "This is unconscionable."

But with limited resources the U.N. and partner organizations said they were still able to help 6.8 million people a month last year in Syria.

"Discussions about the future of the people of Syria must translate to real action. This means depoliticization of humanitarian assistance," said Abdelmoula. "The people of Syria deserve better."