Friday, September 13, 2013

A dying shame: ‘Too little and too late’ in Syria, Save the Children warns

The world should feel ‘ashamed’ for failing to aid the Syrian people in the worst humanitarian crisis for three decades, a leading charity chief has declared.
Global leaders and United Nations chiefs have let down millions of people in Syria and surrounding regions, according to Save The Children UK chief executive Justin Forsyth.
Only Britain can claim some credit for backing a relief response that is still £1.3billion short of UN targets, he added.
He also called for an overhaul of obstacles preventing aid from reaching the most needy.
Mr Forsyth described the Syrian crisis as the worst since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when the world was also guilty of failing to intervene until too late.
Mr Forsyth, who previously worked for Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in Downing Street, told Metro: ‘After seeing conditions this weekend, I feel even more strongly the world should be really ashamed of its response to Syria.
‘So many families rightly feel neglected, let down and alone.
‘Even though we can provide some aid, they feel the world has done too little and too late.
‘The Rwandan genocide was terrible and worse, but this is the worst humanitarian crisis since then - and it’s on our watch.’
A UN appeal for funding from world governments has now reached just 59 per cent of its £3.2billion target, leaving £1.3billion still to find.
Britain’s international development secretary Justine Greening this weekend announced an extra £52million.
The UK has so far handed over £124million this year, with another £168million promised - and the Foreign Office says the spending will be £400million covering both 2012 and 2013.
Mr Forsyth praised Ms Greening and David Cameron for ensuring Britain - both the government and the public - was ‘an honourable exception’.
Still, aid delivery is hampered because UN-led supplies must go through government-controlled Damascus - meaning large swathes of Syria are out of bounds.
Mr Forsyth wants a UN Security Council resolution demanding unfettered access for humanitarian workers across all parts of the country.
He admitted: ‘We’re struggling against the odds and can feel overwhelmed - there are so many unmet needs.
‘Refugee families are at least receiving some help and not being shelled anymore, but in Syria there are still hundreds and thousands getting no aid while still coming under attack.’
‘Surely even if the world can’t decide what to do about military strikes, they can at least agree to allow aid across all areas, which would make a massive difference?’
Despite sweltering summer heat in the region now, concerns are growing that temperatures are starting to drop ahead of a winter expected to prove lethally freezing in northern Lebanon - where many refugees camp in threadbare tents.
UN programmes offer £17 each month to refugee families who register with them, though some aid workers believe many more are refusing to sign up for fear they will be traced by the Syrian regime.
Save The Children’s efforts include funding schools in Lebanon, so far reaching 7,000 Syrian children whose schools have been destroyed.
Shelter kits have been given to more than 2,000 refugee families, cash-for-work schemes are being set up to provide money as well as purpose, and the charity is also backing two health centres in Bekaa and one in Akkar.
Aid workers are also concerned to help not only Syrian families arriving in the country, but also deprived Lebanese - especially to help ease rising resentment amid the refugee influx.
The new Save The Children appeal aims to raise £150million, to help in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

United Nations appeal target: £3.2billion
Amount of aid so far donated: £1.9billion (59 per cent)
Shortfall: £1.3billion

United States: £518million
European Commission: £392million
Kuwait: £205million
United Kingdom: £124million (plus a further £168million announced by ministers)
Germany: £104million
Various (details not yet provided): £101million
Private individuals and organisations: £68million
Canada: £54million
Japan: £52million
Australia: £41million

Lebanon: 716,284 (officially registered with United Nations agencies - though unofficial estimates suggest there may be as many as 1.3million)
Jordan: 522,000 (including 120,000 at the Za’atari camp)
Turkey: 440,000
Iraq: 196,000
Egypt: 110,000
Elsewhere in North Africa (including Algeria, Morocco, Libya): 15,000

Estimated population still inside Syrian needing assistance: 6.8million (including 3.1million children)
Estimated number of people forced from their homes inside Syria: 5.1million
Estimated deaths since the start of the Assad crackdown: 100,000+ (including 7,000 children)
Schools destroyed or closed down: 4,000

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