International donors held a sixth pledging conference in Brussels for conflict-wracked Syria on Tuesday, saying Syrians should not be forgotten even as the Ukraine war grips world attention.
“World public opinion seems not to be able to deal with more than one crisis at the time,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said as he opened the event.
He admitted “a certain fatigue” among donors, adding: “Now it is Ukraine in the headlines. But don’t give up on Syria.”
Last year’s donors’ conference raised a total $6.4 billion (6.1 billion euros), with the money to go to helping Syrians and to neighboring countries struggling with Syrian refugees – not to the Damascus government.
Much of the money will go to help Syrians who have taken refuge in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, as well as Egypt and Iraq.
The conference brought together around 70 countries and international institutions, including UN agencies.
Borrell announced an extra one billion euros covering 2022, bringing its total to 1.56 billion euros – the same as it pledged last year.
In addition, EU member states made national pledges, with the total raised to be given later Tuesday.
The Syrian war started in 2011 and is now in its 12th year, with more than half a million people estimated to have been killed.
The forces of President Bashar al-Assad, with backing from Russia and Iran, have been battling militants, most of them in Syria’s northwest.
Sweden’s participant at the conference, junior minister for international development Jenny Ohlsson, said: “The crisis in Ukraine, of course, takes a lot of attention.
“But we remain steadfast and focused in our support to the Syrian population.”
Her country, she said, would donate 700 million kroner (66 million euros, $70 million).
According to UNICEF, 9.3 million Syrian children need aid both inside the country and in the wider region around Syria.
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