Has NZ forgotten about Syria after 10 years of war?

Twelve aid agencies have banded together to jointly call on the New Zealand Government to renew its funding for “forgotten” Syrian families and refugees whose lives have been shattered after a decade of conflict.

While millions have fled, and others struggle in refugee camps or bombed-out cities and towns, with more than half of the country’s infrastructure destroyed, the aid groups say New Zealand needs to be doing more to help them.

Several aid agencies in New Zealand have been supporting Syrian refugees the war-torn decade but have struggled with the last round of Government funding back in 2016 and other funding drying up.

The aid agencies – Oxfam, Save the Children NZ, Tearfund, Unicef, Adra, Anglican Missions, Caritas, CBM, CWS, Hagar, International Needs, and World Vision – say the Syrian conflict continues to cause misery for the millions who have fled and those who are still trapped inside the country.

“On the 10th year of Syria’s war, we collectively urge the New Zealand Government and the international community to continue investing in long-term solutions for Syrian children so that the past decade does not define their future,” Tearfund NZ chief executive Ian McInnes said today.

“Aid remains a lifeline for all war-affected Syrians who are still struggling to access critical services including health, nutrition, education and protection.”

In February, the UN reported a funding gap of US$9.81 billion to meet the needs of suffering Syrians.

The scale of the continuing humanitarian need and the economic cost of 10 years of conflict in Syria has been put at US$1.2 trillion – but humanitarian aid to Syria over that time has been just 1.6 per cent of that amount.

Although Syria accounts for less than one per cent of the world’s population, its people make up nearly one-third of refugees worldwide.

“As the war has gone on, the suffering of the people has increasingly been forgotten,” national director of World Vision NZ, Grant Bayldon said.

“As funds have dried up, so has the help that many Syrian families need to make it through.”

With the ongoing impact of Covid-19, escalating climate change and a global economic recession, aid agencies face some tough decisions.

But Rachael Le Mesurier, executive director of Oxfam NZ, says this is not the time to lose focus on Syria.

“We urge the New Zealand Government to renew its efforts to influence world leaders to find a political solution that could bring this conflict to an end and make further financial aid available to New Zealand aid agencies to help Syrian families and communities traumatised by 10 years of war.”

Unicef NZ chief executive Michelle Sharp says the decade-long war in Syria has had an unimaginable toll on children.

“Today, more than six million children need assistance, half a million are chronically malnourished, and in the last year alone, the reported number of children in psychological distress has doubled,” she said.

“Every child has the right to safety and we must urgently reimagine a better world for Syrian children.”

Heidi Coetzee, chief executive of Save the Children NZ, says the children of Syria are paying the ultimate price of this deadly and prolonged conflict.

“We call on political leaders to urgently bring about a peaceful resolution to this conflict that has gone on 10 years too long,” Coetzee said.

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