The tragic crisis unfolding in Syria and in neighbouring countries has resulted in enormous humanitarian needs requiring an urgent response from the international community. As the number of fatalities moves towards 100,000, there are now close to 7 million people who are in need of immediate life saving support. In addition to more than 4 million people who are displaced within Syria, there are currently 1.7 million Syrians who have fled the violence to take refuge in neighbouring countries. Estimates suggest that the total number of refugees could be as high as 3.5 million by the end of the year. To date Ireland has provided almost €10m to support the delivery of life saving supplies to those most affected by the crisis. This includes Ireland’s pledge of €4.7 million made at the Kuwait Pledging Conference for Syria in January, which was met in full. This significant support marks us out as one of the most generous contributors in the world to the humanitarian response on a per capita basis. This funding has supported the provision of water, food, shelter and vital medicines to IDPs and host families within Syria and also to refugees in neighbouring countries, particularly Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.
Humanitarian access has been a huge challenge for those delivering assistance inside Syria. Restrictions imposed by the Assad regime, combined with logistical constraints and increasing insecurity have made it very difficult to access vulnerable populations. Until recently this meant that donors such as Ireland focused their funding to key UN partners and the Red Cross/Red Crescent – agencies based in Damascus which had negotiated certain levels of access with the Syrian regime and were capable of delivering assistance to large numbers of beneficiaries. These agencies also play the key role in supporting the host governments in neighbouring countries to provide assistance to the refugee populations.
By early 2013 UN agencies were reaching 2 million people in Syria every month, however the needs were escalating rapidly and serious gaps remained. The UN recognised that innovative and alternative forms of aid delivery, including cross-border operations were necessary to get aid into the hard-to-reach areas. NGOs have more flexible operational systems and they now key to reaching vulnerable populations in specific areas of the country. The increasing refugee caseload has also meant that NGOs now have a more defined role in refugee camps and host communities in neighbouring countries. Ireland’s funding to our NGO partners will enable the delivery of assistance in the hard to reach areas of north and north-west Syria from an operational base in Turkey. The support for our NGO partner in Lebanon and Jordan will ensure that refugees awaiting registration in the refugee camps and informal settlements receive desperately needed assistance.
We have worked closely with all the agencies that receive Irish Aid support to ensure that the necessary systems are place to monitor and evaluate the use and impact of Ireland’s assistance. Ireland also insists that our partners adhere to best practice in humanitarianism including promoting accountability, efficiency and effectiveness in implementing humanitarian action. Equally, we are committed to the full implementation of the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid, which clearly articulates the EU and its Member States’ commitment to uphold and promote the fundamental humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.