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Diminishing Assistance Leaves Syrian Earthquake Victims Strande

Donor nations' redirection of funds to other crises is impeding recovery endeavors.

by Soofiya

Non-governmental organization workers, first responders, and United Nations officials have highlighted a significant shortfall in funding for aid programs in Syria, hindering the country’s recovery from last year’s earthquake. This natural disaster exacerbated an already dire humanitarian crisis in the region, with donor nations reallocating resources to other global emergencies amid widespread budget cuts, according to aid officials. The reduction in funding comes at a critical time when humanitarian needs in Syria are escalating, aggravated by ongoing conflict spanning over a decade without a foreseeable resolution.

Even prior to the earthquake, north-western Syria harbored over three million internally displaced individuals, primarily women and children, due to the civil war. The earthquake claimed over 5,900 lives and caused extensive damage to homes and businesses, exacerbating violence, disease, and poverty. However, insufficient financial support has hampered early recovery efforts, leaving many struggling for basic necessities, including adequate shelter and essential services.

Ziad Ayoubi, the Senior Field Coordinator for the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Syria, emphasized the limited scope of early recovery initiatives due to funding constraints. Despite some assistance reaching thousands of households, it falls short of addressing the widespread devastation caused by the earthquake.

Last year’s UN humanitarian response plan for Syria, totaling $5.4 billion, was only one-third funded, a stark contrast to previous years. This year’s target of approximately $4.4 billion is also unlikely to be met. Consequently, vital aid programs, such as the World Food Programme’s assistance, have been forced to cease operations due to financial shortages, exacerbating the risk of food insecurity among Syrians.

A significant portion of displaced individuals from the earthquake remain unable to return home, with many facing challenges due to the extensive destruction of infrastructure and livelihoods. Despite efforts by civil defense workers to restore essential services, such as water and medical facilities, much remains to be accomplished, particularly in providing healthcare to the displaced population.

Moreover, economic losses from the earthquake have further strained Syria’s already fragile economy, with widespread destruction of small businesses and homes. Many families are grappling with financial hardships, compounded by the loss of breadwinners and inadequate wages, making it difficult to afford basic necessities and repairs.

The political landscape in Syria adds another layer of complexity to the recovery process, with differing control over earthquake-affected areas complicating aid delivery. Cross-border aid operations face challenges, including the need for periodic government approvals and restrictions imposed by donor countries on funding allocation for reconstruction efforts in government-controlled areas.

Addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort to depoliticize humanitarian aid and secure sufficient funding for long-term recovery projects. Reducing bureaucratic obstacles and prioritizing the needs of affected communities are essential steps toward facilitating Syria’s recovery from the earthquake and ongoing humanitarian crisis.

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