Donors Pledge $4.4 Billion in Aid for Syria, Neighboring Countries

A destroyed hospital in Idlib

A destroyed hospital

Syrian refugees are facing a large shortfall in aid after a two-day joint UN-EU pledging conference in Brussels fell billions of dollars short of the UN target for 2018.

In Brussels began work under the auspices of the United Nations and the European Union global conference, the goal of which is to raise funds to help Syrian refugees.

Mark Lowcock, the United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs told a news conference: "My best guess and my best forecast is that by the end of the day we will have heard pledges for 2018 of $4.4bn".

The UN had said it was aiming for a total of $3.6bn for a humanitarian response plan for those in need inside Syria, of which $800m (23%) had been pledged before the conference.

Germany has already given 4.5 billion euros in aid to Syria since 2012. "The pledges today show that the conditions for Syrians will only get worse in the future", said Rouba Mhaissen, a Syrian-Lebanese activist working for refugees.

Russian Federation and Iran have given Assad crucial support throughout the seven-year war in Syria, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and uprooted millions.

Lowcock said the pledges were a "good start" and welcomed a 1bn euro German pledge and an additional £250m from the UK.

The UN hoped to raise nine billion USA dollars (7.3 billion euros) to assist the 6.1 million internally displaced people in Syria and more than five million refugees in neighbouring countries, particularly in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

In a joint statement, a coalition of NGO said the "conference did not go almost far enough to provide adequate support to the millions of Syrians in need of assistance and who are left facing an uncertain future". "Lebanon continues to be a big refugee camp", he said.

European Union diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said Moscow and Tehran, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's key supporters, had a duty to help wind down the war, now in its eighth year.

In addition to the lack of funds, the United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, expressed concern that prolonged chaos would create a chance for Islamic State militants to make a comeback.

Europe hoped to use the conference to reinvigorate the faltering UN-led peace process in Geneva, but it was not clear how effective the push was. They also called for the "protection" of civilians in northern Syria, where fighting in Idlib and Afrin, has created hundreds of thousands of newly displaced people.

About 70,000 people are in dire need of aid in Douma after one of the most intense military battles in Syria's seven-year war.

With nearly 400,000 people displaced since mid-December and tens of thousands pouring in from other regions, Idlib has also been hit by air strikes in recent weeks as fighting continues, Mueller said.

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