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On Monday the UN’s World Food Programme announced it was suspending the Syrian refugee food assistance programme, cutting off food aid to around 1.7 million Syrian refugees due to a 64 million dollar (or 51 million euro) shortfall in funding from donors.
This announcement prompted one of the Syrian opposition leaders to call it “an execution order” by the international community, condemning well over a million Syrians to a famine as a harsh winter approaches.

All the countries currently with Syrian refugee populations are being affected. Just last month the Kingdom of Jordan announced it could no longer afford to give free health care to the approximately 450,000 Syrian refugees currently in the country. Food aid to all 900,000 Syrian refugees currently registered in Lebanon is also affected. Estimates are that there are some 3 million Syrians outside of Syria needing aid, with up to 4 million displaced within the war-torn country. The need is absolutely enormous, but the aid donations are nowhere near at a level to match.

For the majority of the Syrian refugees, their monthly voucher is the sole source of income or provision. The WFP says it needs $64 million for this month alone in order to provide the necessary aid. Now instead of waiting on donors, the World Food Programme has launched an unprecedented public appeal, with a social media campaign to try to convince 64 million people to each donate $1 each in a desperate bid to raise the minimum amount of funding needed to try to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.

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In the first 24 hours of this appeal, the money received from a mixture of individuals, corporations and governments has been announced as one-third of the $64 million required to fully reinstate the Syrian refugee food programme. But there is still a long way to go to reach the funding level required.

Meanwhile Amnesty International has criticised the world’s wealthiest nations for taking in only a “pitiful” amount of Syrian refugees.

It singled out the Arab Gulf states, China and Russia for failing to take in any refugees at all, which Amnesty describes as “shameful”, with Syria’s neighbours – Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt – struggling to cope with the numbers of refugees that have fled across borders to escape the Civil War. Meanwhile with the exception of Germany, says Amnesty, the European Union has pledged to resettle only “a paltry” 0.17% of the refugees, adding that the apathy of some of the world’s richest nations is being worsened by the media scare-mongering over rising immigration across Europe.

This immigration scaremongering may certainly be a part of it; it is one of the key propaganda battlegrounds between political parties trying to win popular support by playing to basic xenophobia and deep-seated societal anxieties, particularly during election years. Another cause may the so-called ‘compassion fatigue’ of large sections of society that are too frequently asked to give to new causes and may feel unable to do so during difficult financial times. Either way, the cost to Syrian refugees in this instance is unbearable.

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The crisis in Syria, which has now been going on for three years, may be the greatest international tragedy of modern times; and the level of apathy that has set in towards the immense suffering of the Syrian people is something terrible.

An entire country, an entire society, that no long ago was entirely stable, functioning and peaceful has been torn apart, utterly gutted, for three years. Cities and infrastructure have been decimated, Syria’s culture and vast historical heritage has been destroyed, its once harmonious multi-faith tapestry has been ripped apart, its streets and public places have been subject to terror, warfare, gang violence, murder and rape.

It has been subject to foreign infiltration by terrorists and mercenaries, creating millions of refugees, a huge proportion of them children. With a death-toll so far already estimated to stand at 200,000, and with a potential winter famine a possibility, this is not the time for apathy nor the time for political propaganda and point-scoring with the old immigration scaremongering strategies.

Read the full Amnesty report here.

Donate to the World Food Programme’s Syria appeal here.

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