German Caritas chief: Syria aid should include reconstruction help


The head of the German branch of the Catholic charity Caritas has called for aid to war-torn Syria to include support for reconstruction projects in government-controlled areas.

Peter Neher described the humanitarian situation in the country as "a disaster," and said the previous focus on emergency aid should be abandoned, in comments to dpa ahead of a Syria donor conference in Brussels on Tuesday.

"We have to allow targeted reconstruction measures, even in areas under the control of the regime," he said.

The EU has so far rejected such aid in areas controlled by President Bashar al-Assad's government because it does not want to support his rule. It is only ready to take this approach if there is tangible progress towards a political solution.

But Neher pointed to the country's destroyed infrastructure, and noted that some 2.5 million children do not attend school.

"We want to help people so they have a roof over their heads again," he said. "We want to rebuild kindergartens, schools and health facilities." Targeted measures could improve people's lives "without this being seen as carte blanche for the regime," Neher added.

Poverty is on the rise in Syria due to the ten-year civil war and the recent economic crisis.

According to UN figures, 12.4 million people – almost 60 per cent of the population – suffer from hunger. The number of people who cannot survive without food aid doubled within a year.

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