Switzerland supports humanitarian aid for the Syrian crisis with a further CHF 30 million
War has been raging in Syria for more than 1000 days; the humanitarian situation in the region is catastrophic. According to UN estimates, approximately 9.3 million people in Syria need humanitarian aid. The number of refugees has more than tripled to 2.3 million over the last 12 months and is expected to exceed 4 million by the end of 2014. In view of the situation, the UN is about to convene another donor conference in Kuwait during which it will call on the international community to provide USD 6.5 billion in assistance this year. Switzerland will pledge additional assistance in response to this appeal for humanitarian aid – the largest the UN has made to date.
The extremely harsh winter is has exacerbated people's hardship; a total of 11.6 million people affected by the war are trying to survive under precarious conditions in Syria itself, as well as in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Against this backdrop, at the international donor conference on 15 January 2014 Switzerland will undertake to contribute a further CHF 30 million to people affected by the Syrian crisis. This will increase the SDC's support for the victims of the civil war in Syria since March 2011 to CHF 85 million.
The Federal Council's Delegate for Humanitarian Aid, Ambassador Manuel Bessler, will pledge Switzerland's contribution at the UN conference. "It is a priority for Switzerland to counter the catastrophic consequences this crisis is having on Syria and the region," said Bessler on Monday to the media.
In mid-December, the UN organised an airlift from northern Iraq to supply areas in north-eastern Syria that are cut off from aid. The refugee agency UNHCR, the children's relief organisation UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) used this airlift to provide assistance – including food, thermal blankets, plastic tarpaulins and tents – to more than 50,000 people in need. "With its rapid financial support, Switzerland helped to ensure that people in need would receive urgently needed aid – which is of vital importance particularly in cold winter months – via this airlift," explained Bessler.
In view of the extraordinarily harsh winter in the region and the unending flow of refugees into neighbouring countries whose resources are reaching their limit, it is essential that sufficient financial resources be provided immediately. "Considering that some 5,000 Syrians are fleeing to neighbouring countries every day and that in Lebanon almost one person in five is now a Syrian refugee, the international donor community must also support the countries that are taking on this additional burden," added Bessler and thanked Syria's neighbouring countries for their tremendous willingness to help. "Furthermore, a rapidly growing proportion of the local population in these neighbouring countries also needs assistance, for example in connection with the sharp rise in the cost of living because of the Syrian crisis."
The SDC is concentrating its humanitarian efforts on protecting and supporting the affected populations inside Syria and the Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. The SDC has three priorities: 1. Financial support for humanitarian partners (UN, ICRC, international and local non-state actors). 2. Direct humanitarian action by Swiss Humanitarian Aid in Jordan and Lebanon, such as cash assistance for Lebanese families that take in Syrian refugees and the rehabilitation of schools in which Syrian refugee children attend lessons together with local children. 3. Secondment of experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) to UN partner organisations.
In view of the extremely difficult situation in Syria, Switzerland is also involved in promoting compliance with international law and the search for a just and sustainable political solution. In this respect, Switzerland supports the efforts of the Special Envoy of the UN and the Arab League, Lakhdar Brahimi. Switzerland makes itself available as the host state of the Syria conference in Geneva and fulfils specific UN requests relating to the conference (training representatives of the opposition in negotiation techniques).