Top Donor Countries Fall Billions Short On Refugee Aid For Syria

CREDIT: UNHCR/Shawn Baldwin

Syrian refugees in Northern Iraq

Zaatari camp near the Syrian border

Zaatari camp near the Syrian border

CREDIT: AP Photo/Raad Adayleh

A new analysis of the humanitarian response to Syrian refugees reveals that many of what should be the top donor countries are falling far short of providing their fair share of urgently-needed funding, with donations from the international community remaining $2.7 billion short of the UN’s $5 billion appeal for aid.

According to international aid agency Oxfam’s research, which calculates a country’s “fair share” according to its Gross National Income (GNI) and overall wealth, countries such as France, Russia, and Qatar are among the noteworthy donors failing to pull their weight. These countries have each played pivotal roles in shaping the international community’s response to the Syrian crisis, but have yet to donate even half of their fair share to the humanitarian effort. France’s donations constitute only 47 percent of its fair share, while Russia and Qatar have each given a paltry three percent.

Russia’s most prominent role in the Syrian crisis — until its decision to aid in removing Syria’s chemical weapons — has been the staunch supporter of the Assad regime and counterweight to President Obama’s push for expanded international intervention, including military strikes. China has joined Russia in this role, often using its veto power as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council to deter intervention. But Russia and China also share an apparent unwillingness to assist the growing number of refugees: Russia has donated just $17.6 million and China a mere $1.2 million.

The shortfall in donations now threatens to further exacerbate the refugee crisis. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in June called for $5 billion for humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees, the largest call in its history. To date, only 44 percent has of that amount been provided to help the two million Syrians who have registered as refugees with the UNHCR and the additional four million displaced Syrians need urgent assistance inside Syria.

“Too many donor countries are not delivering the level of funds that is expected of them,” said Colette Fearon, the Head of Oxfam Syria, in a press statement. “While economic times are tough, we are facing the largest man-made humanitarian disaster in two decades and we have to seriously address it.” This new research comes just a week before a Sept. 25 high-level donor meeting in New York. Fearon added, “This is not the time for pledges. The situation demands committed funds in order to save lives.”

The funding gap places further strain on Syria’s neighbors. Host nations for vast numbers of Syrian refugees such as Lebanon (742,209), Jordan (519,676), Turkey (463,885), and Iraq (183,195) are struggling to provide housing, food, and medical care to the displaced Syrians.

Unfortunately for the increasing number of refugees and their host countries, France, Russia and Qatar are not the only donor countries failing to meet their humanitarian responsibilities. According to Oxfam, a third of all countries on the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD) have given less than half of their fair share. Even the United States, which is currently the largest donor by far, has given only 63 percent of what would be expected based on the size of its economy.

Christopher Butterfield is an intern for ThinkProgress.