Bern, 21.12.2017 - The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) has opened a humanitarian office in Damascus to improve access to those in need, and to monitor and coordinate projects more closely. Up to now, Switzerland mainly provided humanitarian aid to people in need through one of its representations in neighbouring countries. The humanitarian effort in connection with the Syria crisis is currently Switzerland's biggest humanitarian operation.
The humanitarian situation in Syria remains alarming and support is needed from the international community, including Switzerland, now more than ever. This is particularly apparent at the moment in Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, where the population suffer from lack of food and urgent medical care.
The increased presence afforded by the opening of the humanitarian office makes it possible for Switzerland, under the leadership of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, to monitor more closely the dialogue to secure humanitarian access to the affected population, to intensify efforts to improve relief services and to better monitor projects on the ground. The humanitarian office will also increase support to local humanitarian organisations in addition to that provided to international agencies.
One of the world's worst humanitarian crises, the conflict in Syria is now in its seventh year. About 18 million people, including 13 million inside Syria, depend on humanitarian aid. Since the crisis began in 2011, Switzerland has provided over CHF 315 million to support people affected by the crisis. About half of this funding is used to help those in need in Syria itself. This is currently Switzerland's biggest humanitarian operation.
Since the Swiss embassy closed along with the SDC's cooperation office in spring 2012, Switzerland has mainly carried out its humanitarian efforts through its representations in neighbouring countries (Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey). In the context of this regional crisis, these representations will continue to play a central role in humanitarian efforts.
Switzerland provides humanitarian relief in response to the specific needs of the people affected. It works in accordance with the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. Humanitarian aid is provided throughout Syria to people affected by the conflict, whatever their ethnic, religious or political affiliations.
In order to meet the considerable needs of those affected, Switzerland supports tried and tested partner organisations such as the ICRC, UN agencies and international and local partners in Syria and in the region, to enable them to carry out humanitarian projects. Specialists from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit and the Swiss Expert Pool for Civilian Peacebuilding have also been working for partner organisations in Syria and in the region for a number of years.
Switzerland's commitment in Syria is based on three pillars: in addition to providing humanitarian relief to support those in need in Syria and neighbouring countries, Switzerland is also working for a political solution to the conflict. It is also working to promote and ensure compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights, and to combat impunity.
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