News BlogHumanitarian aidGulf Middle East

What humanitarian aid is Europe providing to Syria? (shift)

Other besieged towns supplied (credit: UN/OCHA)
Other besieged cities supplied (credit: UN / OCHA)

(B2) The arrival of humanitarian aid in besieged cities and elsewhere in Syria is one of the key points of the Munich agreement, along with the cessation of hostilities. And European humanitarian aid (ECHO) is undoubtedly what is most mature and most effective in the European system.

How much did Europe offer Syria?

The European Union has decided to put its hand in its pocket. Europe (the budget of the European Union + that of the Member States) is the leading donor in Syria. During the last conference, in London on February 4, the Europeans committed to providing more than 3 billion euros, multiplying by three the aid already proposed during the third donor conference, in Kuwait on March 31, 2015 From its budget alone, the Union has decided to release 2,4 billion euros over two years: 1,1 billion euros in 2016 and 1.3 in 2017.

Who will distribute the aid?

An amount which will go to the humanitarian organizations present on site: United Nations agencies such as WFP and UNOCHA, as well as the Red Cross Movement (Syrian Red Crescent, etc.) and NGOs.

When did the help leave?

Very quickly after the signing of the agreement on the night of February 11 to 12, a few convoys were able to cross the roadblocks towards some of the besieged towns. The WFP and the Syrian Red Crescent were thus able to bring food and emergency aid to four towns covered by the agreements: Madaya (with 62 trucks for 40.000 beneficiaries), Zabadani (with 3 trucks for 1.000 beneficiaries), Foah and Kefraya (with 18 trucks for 20.000 beneficiaries). Also read: Syria. Haggard inhabitants, thinner than nature (PAM). 

Other convoys left by road. UNOCHA was able to provide medicines this Monday (February 29) to the town of Moadamieh, Kafar Batna, as well as to the Ghouta region. The World Food Program is also considering using airdrops to supply the besieged city of Deir ez-zor, difficult to reach by road.

How many people live in these besieged cities?

The figures vary depending on the sources and it is very difficult to have an objective view of the number of people. Jointly, the allies estimate that there are nearly 500.000 people living in these besieged cities. More than half are besieged by the regime (274.200 according to the Quai d'Orsay), the other (small) half by Daesh (200.000) and 12.500 by other armed opposition groups including the Al Nosrah Front (2) .


How can funds be released quickly?

ECHO funds a front-line emergency response system in Syria. This allows partners to “ rapidly mobilize pre-positioned stocks to provide aid in newly accessible areas or to respond to sudden population displacement, including with road convoys », Explains the European Humanitarian Aid Office. ECHO generally finances 100% of the amounts incurred by NGOs in what is called “eligible expenditure”. A list of expenses and products defined in advance that Europe considers necessary on site. Sometimes, it even agrees to reimburse expenses retroactively (expenses already incurred by NGOs but for a “good cause”). A serious departure from accounting orthodoxy, usually the rule in Brussels, but which undeniably contributes to the flexibility (and effectiveness) of the European instrument.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde with Lucas Millet)

(1) This figure must also be corrected for people who, in the meantime, either managed to flee the area or died.

(2) It is symptomatic of the French point of view to put the Al Nosrah Front (claiming its membership in Al Qaeda) in the group of “moderate opponents” and not in the same group as Daesh, both of them acting part of the terrorist organizations included on the UN list.

Read also: The Munich agreement comes into effect. Humanitarian access and cessation of fighting

updated: with data on besieged cities

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).