NGO warns Germany against cuts to Syria aid

  
A camp in Jordan hosts thousands of Syrian cross-border refugees. Al Mafraq, Jordan 2012 [United Nations Photo/Flickr]
A camp in Jordan hosts thousands of Syrian refugees. Al Mafraq, 2012. [United Nations Photo/Flickr]

The German aid organisation World Vision fears that newly-escalating conflicts threaten to overshadow growing need in Syria, following German government plans to spend less on humanitarian aid in the region. EurActiv Germany reports.

Germany's intention to balance its budget in the coming year could worsen the desperate situation of refugees in Syria and surrounding countries. The draft 2015 budget, recently tabled by the Foreign Office, shows plans to cut funding for humanitarian aid from €398.2 million to €280 million.

Over the coming years, funds could continue to stagnate, said the aid organisation World Vision on Tuesday (19 August). Citing recent talks with the Foreign Office, the NGO is particularly concerned with reductions in concrete aid for Syria.

Refugee numbers in Syria on the rise

"More than 1.4 million refugee children outside Syria and almost 5 million children in the country itself, fight for survival daily, experiencing violence and insecurity, social exclusion, beatings, early marriage, sexual abuse and having to beg on the streets," reported Christoph Waffenschmidt, CEO of World Vision.

Funds should not undergo cuts, especially when refugee numbers in the region continue to rise, he said.

On the other hand, the aid group welcomes the fact that the German government is stepping up humanitarian aid in northern Iraq.

€21 million in aid pledged by the Foreign Office for this region is intended to counteract adverse effects of the conflict with the jihadist group IS (Islamic State). This sum does not yet include support from the Ministry of Development.

"Even if the conflicts are interconnected – the situation in Syria is still much worse than it is in Iraq. There, the humanitarian catastrophe has persisted for several years. Children are uprooted there. Refugees have been displaced multiple times", explained Ekkehard Vorberg, a peace expert at World Vision.

Speaking with EurActiv Berlin, Vorberg said cuts to Syria's aid are likely to have direct effects on the situation of refugees in the region.

>>Read: 'Forgotten' Syria in urgent need of humanitarian aid

World Vision is concerned that Syria is losing international attention amid explosive new wars dominating the world stage. Meanwhile the demand for humanitarian aid in the region is growing.

"The German government must take on more responsibility and at the same time ensure that no competition for aid results among individual conflict regions", said Waffenschmidt.

German government wants to "test all possibilities"

But the German government indicated its globally exceptional involvement in Syria.

"Germany is one of the largest contributors [of aid] in the Syria crisis, which will remain a focus of German involvement in 2014," the Foreign Office explained in a response to a Bundestag inquiry from the Green Party.

The government will make every effort to maintain funds at pre-year levels, the Foreign Office said, and will continue to "test all possibilities for efficient use of funds".

But the Greens warned that the German government is filling the gap in its budget with funds from unconventional sources.

"That does not remedy the situation here. Aid organisations need planning security. The Federal Government must ramp up funding and guarantee that the necessary aid can be reliably delivered," said Tobias Lindner, rapporteur in the Bundestag for the Foreign Office's budget.

The Green Party is calling for the Syrian crisis' budget to be increased to €400 million.

Funds for humanitarian aid will be one of the issues discussed in Germany’s budget negotiations, which are expected to begin in the Bundestag in September.

For 2013, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated Syria's humanitarian need at around $4.4 billion. For the current year, OCHA’s calculated need in Syria is $6.5 billion.

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