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Urgent steps must be taken to end Syrian humanitarian crisis

13 January 2014

The international community must act now to end the suffering of millions of Syrian civilians, many of whom are at risk of starvation and face severe shortages of medical care and adequate shelter, said Amnesty International ahead of a UN donor conference in Kuwait this week.

“The world’s response to the Syria crisis so far has been woefully inadequate. At the end of 2013 the UN humanitarian appeal - the largest in the organization’s history - was just 70 per cent funded. This meant that vital aid was cut off to some of the most vulnerable victims of Syria’s brutal conflict who were left to face the bitter winter months with minimal resources,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

Although some countries have made generous financial contributions, others including the United Arab Emirates, one of the wealthiest countries within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), made promises on aid that failed to fully materialize. Russia, which has shown significant political interest in the Syrian crisis, has only made minimal contributions to the humanitarian effort.

“The world cannot repeat the mistakes of last year. Offers of assistance will make no difference if that help fails to arrive. This year world powers, particularly those with the financial means to do so, must ensure that the promises they make are kept. The donor conference offers world leaders a chance to prove they have not abandoned the Syrian people,” said Philip Luther.

The organization is urging world leaders to significantly step up their efforts at the conference on Wednesday 15 January, which aims to raise money for the US$6.5 billion humanitarian appeal, in order to provide vital assistance to those worst affected by the conflict.

The continuing violence in Syria has sparked one of the biggest humanitarian crises in recent history.

Among those worst affected are those living inside Syria, including 6.5 million who are internally displaced. Many remain stranded in areas under blockade by government forces. They face severe food shortages and are dying of starvation. Outside Syria, those who have fled to neighbouring countries also face tough conditions in poorly resourced refugee camps.

As well as urging countries to fund the humanitarian appeal for Syria, Amnesty International is calling on the Syrian government to lift blockades on the civilian population in opposition held towns and areas. Both the Syrian government and armed opposition groups must allow humanitarian organizations and agencies unfettered access to assist the civilian population.

Amnesty International is calling on states to make a concerted effort to resettle some of the most vulnerable refugees.

So far international efforts to resettle refugees have been pitiful. European Union member states have pledged to resettle just 0.5 per cent of the 2.3 million people who have fled the country.

The record of GCC states on this issue is equally dire: not one of them has offered a single resettlement place to refugees from Syria. Countries further afield, including Russia, have also failed to accept any refugees through resettlement or humanitarian admission programmes.

“At present many of those displaced by the conflict either inside or outside the country - through no fault of their own - are simply not receiving the help that they need. The international community must step up its efforts on all fronts to prove it has not forgotten about them,” said Philip Luther.

ENDS

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