UN seeks $10 billion for Syrians as humanitarian needs soar
The United Nations will urge international donors to pledge up to $10 billion on Tuesday to help Syrians fleeing a decade of civil war in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that the need for humanitarian support has never been so great.
In the fifth annual conference to keep Syrians refugees from starvation, the event hosted by the European Union will seek $4.2 billion for people inside Syria and $5.8 billion for refugees and their hosts in the Middle East.
Some 24 million people need basic aid, a rise of four million over the past year and the highest number yet since a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 led to civil war.
"It has been ten years of despair and disaster for Syrians," said UN aid chief Mark Lowcock. "Now plummeting living conditions, economic decline and COVID-19 result in more hunger, malnutrition and disease. There is less fighting, but no peace dividend," he said in a statement.
Fighting between Syrian army forces and rebels has subsided since a deal a year ago ended a Russian-led bombing campaign that had displaced over a million people, but Russian air strikes, along with Iranian and Syrian-backed militaries, continue to attack rebel outposts.
Syrian photographers document a decade of war
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has compiled moving documents of contemporary history with a collection of images by Syrian photographers who have recorded daily life in the ongoing war. By Friedel Taube and Goran Cutanoski
Searching for memories in the rubble of Raqqa: a woman pushes a stroller through the destroyed landscape of Raqqa in this photograph from 2019. "I was shocked by what happened to my city, in which I have memories in every street," the photographer Abood Hamam says. "They destroyed everything connected to our past and memory with our life in the city, every detail that used to connect me to it. It was so painful"
A photograph of unending mourning: brothers embrace after losing their mother in Idlib in 2020. Photographer Ghaith Alsayed was 17 when the war began and he lost his brother in a bomb attack. "Every time I had to cover an airstrike, it took me back to the day when my brother Amer was killed by the missiles that bombed our city," Alsayed says. "The same scene keeps repeating itself," he adds
Lost in the destruction: in this 2020 photo from Mohannad Zayat, a woman and her child shelter in a destroyed Binish school. "When the war in Syria began, I was a high school student, and I never expected myself to be a journalist and photographer," Zayat says. "Over the past years, I have been able to transmit many humanitarian stories worldwide, which gives me the motivation and strength to continue my work," he adds
Precious water pools in craters made by bombs: in 2013, this Aleppo boy drinks water from a destroyed pipe out of a bomb crater. "Some people wrote comments criticising the unreality of the image, and saying that the photographer should have provided clean water to the child instead of exploiting his image," Muzaffar Salman says. "I believe that any change of reality begins with seeing it as it is and not as we would like it to be," he adds
Residents leave the city of Ghouta: a man pulls his child in a suitcase as a family flees the city of Ghouta in March 2018. "The war has not only changed Syria, but it has also changed our way of seeing and the way we photograph in order to share humanitarian messages with the world," the photographer Omar Sanadiki says. "My dream is that one day, even after 50 years, my daughters, Asli and Zoya, will show my pictures to the world"
A cup of coffee in Douma: a woman and her husband drink coffee at their home in Douma, on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, in 2017. "Umm Mohammed was one of the most special people I met," photographer Sameer Al-Doumy says. "She got badly injured and just as she was recovering, her husband was hit by an airstrike and lost his ability to walk. ... Her love for her husband was evident and greater than anything"
A woman mourns her son in the Daraa region: "on many occasions, I couldn't photograph what I saw because of the volume of pain and oppression in front of me," Mohamad Abazeed says. "When I photographed this woman, who was visiting the grave of her son on the first day of Eid ul-Fitr in 2017, she was crying and kissing the grave. And I was crying with her and wiping my tears to be able to hold myself together and take the photo"
The child who lost her leg in a mortar attack: five-year-old Aya waits for her father to fix dinner in Damascus in December 2013. She was on her way to school when she was hit by a mortar. "I was wearing my brown shoes," Aya told the photographer Carole Alfarah. "The shoe just flew and my leg flew with it. My leg was gone"
A makeshift parkour course: in Kafr Nouran, near Aleppo, parkour athletes make constructive use of destroyed buildings in September 2020. Anas Alkharboutli's work shows the ways in which life has continued in various ways in the rubble
A new chance near Idlib? "I took this photo in 2020 in the town of Balyun, south of Idlib, of a family returning home after the ceasefire agreement," the photographer Ali Haj Suleiman says. "I had mixed feelings of sadness and joy at the same time. Joy, because I saw people returning to their homes and they were happy, but at the same time I felt sadness because, myself, I could not go back to my village and home"
Roman heritage: this too is Syria at war. The Roman amphitheatre of Bosra in the Daraa region was flooded by heavy rains in 2018. Note: The UN agency UNOCHA has provided all the photos in this gallery, but cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided by third parties. Co-operation with them does not imply endorsement by the UN
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is set to address the conference on Tuesday. On 10 March, marking a decade of conflict, he said Syria is a "living nightmare" where about half the children have never lived a day without war and 60 per cent of Syrians are at risk of going hungry.
In a separate statement on Tuesday, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement called on international donors to help rebuild the country, particularly to repair critical health, water and electricity services. "Our infrastructure is ruined," said Khaled Hboubati, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society.
Rebuilding destroyed cities will take billions of dollars more and cannot start until powers involved in the conflict, including Russia and Iran, help agree a peace settlement, the European Union, which is hosting the conference, says.
International Committee of the Red Cross head Peter Maurer urged world powers to reach a peace deal or face many more annual donor conferences for Syria. "Humanitarians are here to help but the ultimate responsibility lies with parties to the conflict," he said. (Reuters)