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Hard year ahead for Syrian children, as aid dwindles

  • Some 2.5 million of Syria's children are not going to school (Photo: WFP)

Syrian people's suffering is growing, but international aid is shrinking, amid no end in sight to its 10-year war.

Countries donated €5.5bn in assistance at a UN-led video-conference hosted in Brussels on Tuesday (30 March).

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The EU pledged €1.1bn from its joint budget and member states added €2.6bn from national treasuries, including €1.7bn from Germany, its largest contribution in four years.

But the UK and US (which offered just €508m) cut their pledges from last year and the total fell short of the €8.5bn that UN aid agencies had called for.

Violence has decreased, but the UN was now helping to feed 7.7 million people in Syria - 30 percent more than last year.

And another 5.7 million people needed aid, it said.

"There is less violence, but there is more suffering," UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said, at what has become a regular annual event.

"The situation ... is worse than it has been at any time really over the previous nine years," he added.

People were "facing the impact of a global pandemic, spiralling unemployment, and economic collapse", the Oxfam international aid-group said.

"It is extremely disappointing to see two major donors, the UK and the US, turn their back on the plight of Syrians," a group of 37 aid agencies noted.

"It sends a bleak message," they added.

The UN's Lowcock urged emergency help for the 40,000 children stuck in the "dangerous" 'Al Hol' refugee camp, including repatriating minors from European states.

Another UN official, Henrietta Fore, said the war had claimed the lives of "a verified 12,000 children, and likely many more" in what was a "tragedy upon tragedy for a once-beautiful country rendered unrecognisable today".

Some 90 percent of Syria's children needed aid, she said.

And 2.5 million of them, accounting for 40 percent of all girls, were not going to school.

The EU money comes on top of €6bn it spent on aid for refugees in neighbouring Turkey in recent years, in a programme it aims to renew.

"[Refugee] host countries in the region deserve more than just our gratitude, they need our full support and of course proper funding is crucial," German foreign minister Heiko Maas said.

Tuesday's UN event was not meant to go into conflict resolution or politics.

But EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell noted that: "A decade after Syrians peacefully took to the streets asking for freedom, justice and economic perspectives, those demands are still unmet and the country is in chaos".

"The Syrian people have faced innumerable atrocities, including Assad regime and Russian airstrikes, forced disappearances, ISIS [a jihadist group] brutality, and chemical-weapons attacks," US secretary of state Anthony Blinken said, referring to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia.

Hundreds of European children remain stuck in Syria

Nearly 230 women and 600 children with EU and UK nationalities remain stuck in dire conditions at camps in north-east Syria. An internal EU document warns of radicalisation if nothing is done to help them.

Syria donor conference shuns Russia

Russia was not invited to an international donor conference on Syria in Brussels given its war in Ukraine. Moscow had also recently threatened to veto a humanitarian corridor from Turkey to Syria.

EU states warn of looming food-price crisis

Prices of cereals, fertilisers, and oilseed have shot up drastically in several European markets due to Russia's war on Ukraine, prompting some member states to seek EU aid.

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