UN Still Awaits Delivery of Vast Syrian Aid Pledges

A Syrian man gestures after getting bread in the northern city of Aleppo on 14 February 2013. (Photo: Bulent Kilic -AFP)

By: Nizar Abboud

Published Thursday, February 14, 2013

Of all the countries that recently pledged millions in humanitarian aid to Syria, how many have delivered? Al-Akhbar tracks the most recent donor lapses and even rarer payments.

New York – At a January 2013 donor conference in Kuwait, the UN and Gulf states were full of praise for the scale of the response to the UN‘s aid appeal for the disaster-stricken Syrian people.

The amount of money needed – $1.5 billion – makes this one of the biggest appeals for humanitarian aid in the history of the Middle East. Arab countries, along with others, not only met that target, but exceeded it. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE alone pledged $900 million, promising $300 million each.

Nearly two weeks after the January 30 gathering, Al-Akhbar sought to ascertain from the UN how much of this money had actually been paid. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, was unable to reply to what he agreed was a “very important question.”

He noted that the amounts pledged at the Kuwait conference were very large, even surpassing what the UN had requested, while conceding that “the proof, of course, lies in the commitments being translated into payments.” But he did not have specific details, instead directing inquiries to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Nesirky had no comment on reports that Saudi Arabia and the UAE had withdrawn the aid pledges they made in Kuwait.

However, a list of donor countries provided by OCHA raises questions about the media hype surrounding the supposed generosity of the Gulf oil states, and even some Western countries.

As of February 11, Saudi Arabia’s pledge amounted to $78 million – not the widely publicized $300 million – for urgent funding of relief programs run by the World Food Programme (WFP), World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and similar bodies, including UNRWA, which is responsible for Palestinian refugees displaced by the Syrian crisis.

According to OCHA’s report, the amount actually paid is $2 million. This was provided to the WHO rather than refugees at the Zaatari camp in Jordan or those in Lebanon. Reliable sources noted that Riyadh justified its lowered pledge of $78 million by arguing that this was the balance between the declared $300 million and the value of the humanitarian aid it had previously provided to the Syrian people.

Bahrain also got its name included on the list of Gulf philanthropists, promising to donate $20 million, but not a dollar of that has yet materialized.

The UAE, which occupied a top spot on the donor list, has so far provided $20 million of its promised $300 million. This included $200,381 worth of food and fuel for displaced individuals in Damascus’ Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp supplied via the Red Crescent in Jordan. The same aid at the same value was provided to displaced Palestinians from Yarmouk who arrived in Lebanon.

The UAE paid a further $5 million to help Syrian refugees affected by the blizzards in Jordan. Another $6 million was donated for tents and prefabricated buildings in Jordan, paid for by the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation via a check presented by the UAE embassy in Amman.

Kuwait has also paid $20 million of its original pledge. It provided internally displaced Syrians with $2 million of food via the WFP and $1 million worth of shelter. So far, $10 million of the total $20 million was listed as having been paid by various Kuwaiti organizations under the heading “alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people.”

Qatar, for its part, did not promise Syrians anything at the Kuwait conference and contributed no funds to any of the UN’s aid programs, according to OCHA.

France has yet to pay a cent on its pledge of $10 million, whereas Germany pledged nothing, but provided $5.3 million, mainly for displaced Syrians in Jordan and Lebanon. Canada has not yet delivered any of the $25.2 million it promised.

Out of all the pledges made at the Kuwait conference, the total amount paid amounts to $350.847 million. That leaves an outstanding $1.263 billion.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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