70 countries pledge $6 billion to Syrian refugees at conference
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.