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Where is Syrian humanitarian aid money going?

The international community pledged more than $1.5bn in humanitarian aid to Syria, but most has not been handed over.
Last modified: 5 Apr 2013 22:53

Earlier this year, the international community pledged more than $1.5bn in humanitarian aid to Syria.

"We have now seen global solidarity in action," Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, said at the time, lauding member states for their generosity.

"We have brought a message of hope to the millions of Syrians who have been affected by this terrible crisis."

Yet as of April 5, most of this money has not been handed over. The UN currently estimates that it has received only 33 percent of the funding needed to help refugees and civilians inside Syria.

Thousands of refugees continue to cross into neighboring countries every week, where an already 1.25m refugees have sought shelter. In some areas, unofficial camps are emerging because the current infrastructure is “saturated” with arrivals, according to a high-level UN official.

"The needs are rising exponentially, and we are broke," said Marixie Mercado, a spokeswoman for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), at a recent press conference in Geneva.

Potential problems

If funding dried up, it could become increasingly difficult to manage the growing refugee populations.

Water services to refugee camps would be cut, along with health treatment and food distribution. Vaccination campaigns could come to a stop.

"So far very little has come in," Mercado said, discussing the lack of money. "We are doing a lot, we are doing an enormous amount. But the needs are just extraordinary. And they are growing every day."

Record keeping on fundraising for such a large appeal is opaque and can be difficult to track.

Some of the pledged money has been handed over directly to governments or humanitarian organisations, bypassing the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which has been tracking the money.

But many governments present at the donors' conference in Kuwait on January 30 agreed to channel the funds through UN agencies.

Top aid donors

Here is a short list of top donors who pledged large sums of humanitarian assistance to Syria, along with how much has been submitted, according to UN and national documents.

Kuwait pledged $300m channelled through to the UN – of which only $4m has been given to the UN.

Saudi Arabia pledged an additional $300m to go to UN agencies or directly to countries helping Syrians. Only $2.1m has been sent to the UN.

United Arab Emirates pledged $300m but it was unclear where the money would go, and there is no record of any donation to the UN since the conference on January 30.

USA pledged an additional $155m, for a total of $365m pledged. A little less than half of that has been submitted to the UN. According to recently published US documents, the US has given a total of $384m in 2012 and 2013 through UN and non-UN channels.

European Commission pledged $136m in new funding for a total of $270m. They have handed over $87m to the UN, of $270m pledged.

Japan announced it will give $65m to the UN and has sent about half of that.