Syria: Urgent action needed at UN conference on Wednesday

Amnesty warns of risk of mass starvation and slams UK for failing to offer to resettle a single refugee

The international community must act now to end the suffering of millions of Syrian civilians, many of whom are at risk of starvation and face severe shortages of medical care and adequate shelter, said Amnesty International ahead of a UN donor conference in Kuwait this week.

Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, said:

“The world’s response to the Syria crisis so far has been woefully inadequate. At the end of 2013 the UN humanitarian appeal - the largest in the organisation’s history - was just 70 per cent funded. This meant that vital aid was cut off to some of the most vulnerable victims of Syria’s brutal conflict who were left to face the bitter winter months with minimal resources.
 
“The world cannot repeat the mistakes of last year.

“At present many of those displaced by the conflict either inside or outside the country - through no fault of their own - are simply not receiving the help that they need. The international community must step up its efforts on all fronts to prove it has not forgotten about them.”

Although some countries have made generous financial contributions, others including the United Arab Emirates, one of the wealthiest countries within the Gulf Cooperation Council made promises on aid that failed to fully materialise. Russia, which has shown significant political interest in the Syrian crisis, has only made minimal contributions to the humanitarian effort.

The organisation is urging world leaders to significantly step up their efforts at the conference on Wednesday, which aims to raise money for the US$6.5 billion humanitarian appeal, in order to provide vital assistance to those worst affected by the conflict.

Among those worst affected are those living inside Syria, including 6.5 million who are internally displaced. Many remain stranded in areas under blockade by government forces. They face severe food shortages and are dying of starvation. Outside Syria, those who have fled to neighbouring countries also face tough conditions in poorly resourced refugee camps.

Amnesty is calling on the Syrian government to lift blockades on the civilian population in opposition held towns and areas.  Both the Syrian government and armed opposition groups must allow humanitarian organisations and agencies unfettered access to assist the civilian population.

Amnesty is calling on states to make a concerted effort to resettle some of the most vulnerable refugees.

So far international efforts to resettle refugees have been pitiful. European Union member states have pledged to resettle just 0.5 per cent of the 2.3 million people who have fled the country. The UK has refused to offer to resettle a single person.

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