70 coun­tries pledge $6 bil­lion to Syr­ian refugees at con­fer­ence

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY LORNE COOK

BRUS­SELS | In­ter­na­tional donors pledged $6 bil­lion in aid for war­rav­aged Syria on Wed­nes­day, even as the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil was hold­ing emer­gency talks over a sus­pected chem­i­cal at­tack that killed dozens in a rebel-held prov­ince this week.

Donors from more than 70 coun­tries meet­ing at a con­fer­ence on Syria in Brus­sels made a “col­lec­tive pledge of $6 bil­lion for this year alone,” said EU Hu­man­i­tar­ian Aid Com­mis­sioner Chris­tos Stylian­ides.

Mr. Stylian­ides de­scribed the pledge, which ap­peared to ap­proach the con­fer­ence hosts’ tar­get, as “an im­pres­sive fig­ure.”

Nearly half the Syr­ian pop­u­la­tion has been dis­placed by the vi­o­lence in the coun­try’s civil war, with mil­lions seek­ing sanc­tu­ary in neigh­bor­ing Le­banon, Jor­dan and Turkey, or head­ing fur­ther west to Europe. U.N. agen­cies es­ti­mate war dam­age across Syria so far at $350 bil­lion, in­clud­ing phys­i­cal de­struc­tion and the loss of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity. Four out of five peo­ple are liv­ing in poverty.

The aim of the con­fer­ence, hosted by the EU with the United Na­tions, Bri­tain, Ger­many, Kuwait, Nor­way and Qatar, was to drum up funds for Syria and the re­gion and to sup­port ef­forts to se­cure a last­ing po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to the war. The long and oner­ous task of re­build­ing Syria was also on the ta­ble, but no ac­tion will be taken un­til a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to the con­flict is found.

Amid con­cerns about donor fa­tigue, the EU hoped the event would gen­er­ate fi­nan­cial sup­port at the same lev­els of re­cent years. Last year’s con­fer­ence in Lon­don raised more than $12 bil­lion in pledges — $6 bil­lion for 2016 and a fur­ther $6.1 bil­lion for 2017-20.

Ac­cord­ing to U.N. re­lief co­or­di­na­tor Stephen O’Brien “for the im­me­di­ate needs of 2017, we need about $8 bil­lion,” but he said that aid can­not reach those in need with­out a cease-fire.

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