BRUSSELS (AP) – Aid agencies argued on Monday for world leaders to provide financial support to conflict-torn Syria, where around 11 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, on the eve of a major donors’ conference organized by the European Union.
The conflict has killed more than 400,000 people and led to a fleeing exodus that has destabilized Syria’s neighboring countries and hit Europe, but now economic chaos and the spread of the coronavirus weigh even more heavily on the long-suffering population.
Syria’s economy has deteriorated recently. Prices have risen and the national currency, the Syrian pound, has collapsed, fearing that international sanctions would further isolate the country. Farmers urgently need money to prepare next year’s crops.
“Syrians who have endured nearly a decade of war and displacement are now facing unprecedented famine, leaving millions of people acutely vulnerable to COVID-19,” the relief agencies said in a joint statement.
“As many as 9.3 million Syrians are now going to sleep hungry and more than 2 million are at risk of a similar fate,” said Oxfam, Humanity & Inclusion, CARE International, World Vision International, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps and the Norwegian Refugee Council.
Perhaps wary of the state of coronavirus-ravaged national treasuries, organizers have emphasized that they do not have a firm commitment target for Tuesday’s donors conference.
The EU said in a report last week that in 2019, donors contributed € 8.9 billion ($ 10 billion) in grants to Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The United Nations currently needs about $ 3.8 billion for its Syria-related work.
It will be the eighth annual pledge conference on Syria and the fourth by the EU, which estimates that it has donated approximately € 20 billion ($ 23 billion) over the years to Syria and the region. About 60 countries, including the US, major UN agencies and other parties to the conflict, are expected to participate.
In addition to the economic impact, the corona virus also forced the conference to be kept online. The event is typically an important opportunity for officials to come on the sidelines to discuss thorny issues and solve problems, but officials are concerned that the virtual setup could reduce the conference to a creaky exercise.
Sarah El Deeb contributed to this report from Beirut.
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