Humanitarian funding for Syria #1

Uploaded: 22/02/2012 Author: Laura Jump


International humanitarian efforts in response to the current unrest in Syria are severely restricted due to lack of access. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is believed to be the only international agency operating inside the country, working alongside the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to deliver food and medical supplies. According to BBC reports and the ICRC’s own website, the ICRC says conditions in Homs and Bludan are deteriorating. Access is required in order to carry on with delivery and to evacuate the wounded.

Several agencies are, however, continuing to provide assistance to Syrians that have crossed or are crossing the borders into Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, said it has registered 6,375 Syrians in Lebanon but said the actual figure there is likely to be higher as not all refugees register with the agency. Turkish officials said nearly 10,000 Syrian refugees are living in tent camps along the country’s border with Syria, and reports put the number of Syrian refugees already in Jordan at 10,000.

What does that mean for funding?

There are essentially three streams of humanitarian funding flows focusing on humanitarian activity in, on and around Syria:

1. Humanitarian activities in-country

– Some agencies have budgeted to support continued operations in and around Syria in 2012 and some donors have pledged support for humanitarian activities (e.g. the United Kingdom has pledged UK£2 million to “three established humanitarian agencies” (DFID, 17 February 2012) but in-country operations are currently restricted due to lack of access.

– The only funding reported to UN OCHA’s Financial Tracking System (FTS) specifically to address the crisis in Syria so far in 2012 is US$645,995 from Germany to the ICRC

– In 2011, UN OCHA FTS reported expenditure of US$11.8 million on humanitarian operations in Syria, from eight main donors. The three largest donors were: the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), US$3.3 million; Australia, US$3.2 million; and Switzerland just over US$3 million. Just over half of this was provided through the ICRC and World Food Programme (WFP).

– The ICRC budget for Syria in 2012 is CHF12 million – nearly three times higher than in 2011 – some of which will focus on assisting civilians in the current crisis and some of which will assist refugee populations (see below and also ICRC overview of operations).

Due to a technical problem, tables cannot currently be displayed. We are aiming to fix this in the next couple of days. Meanwhile, you can access them by clicking straight through to this spreadsheet.

2. Operations to support Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey

– UN OCHA FTS tracked just under US$1 million (US$912,974) for operations specifically relating to Syrian refugees in 2011. This was provided by three donors: Italy (direct bilateral contribution to Lebanese government); Norway (through Norwegian Refugee Council); and Switzerland to UNHCR.

– Some agencies are raising money to provide support to Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries – for example Muslim Aid and Islamic Relief.

– MSF set up a health programme for Syrian refugees in Wadi Khaled, in the north of Lebanon, in November 2011. Funding to support MSF operations such as this are not necessarily tracked within UN OCHA FTS.

[Note: Jordan is home to refugees from Syria, Iraq and Palestine. At the height of the crisis in Iraq, Jordan hosted an estimated 1.5 million Iraqis. The UN estimates that there are now half this number, though actual numbers fluctuate. This raises an interesting point about how many governments are providing support to people in crisis and how these resources are made visible, or not, in reports on international resource flows.

3. Operations in Syria to support refugees from Iraq and Palestine

Syria has the world’s third largest refugee population and is itself home to refugees from both Iraq and Palestine. The Syrian government has taken on the responsibility for providing some of the basic utility requirements – including, for example, in the camps that are home to Palestinian refugees (while UNRWA provides basic environmental health services including sewage and waste disposal and provision of safe drinking water).

UNHCR’s 2012 budget for Syria stands at US$94.5 million, 20% less than that for 2011 due to the projected reduction in the number of registered Iraqi refugees. However, while the number of refugees is declining, their humanitarian needs are rising as their vulnerability increases. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent is UNHCR’s key operational partner.

UNRWA provides health, education, and relief and social services to more than 496,000 Palestine refugees living in nine official and three unofficial camps in Syria.

– So far in 2012, UN OCHA FTS has tracked US$2.3 million in support of Iraqi refugees in Syria. This has come from Denmark in support of operations by Danish Red Cross and Danish Refugee Council. In 2011, US$26.2 million was provided for refugees of Palestine and Iraq inside Syria.

Download data from this spreadsheet. Tables will be shown here in the next few days.

Useful resources:



UN data

BBC factfile



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3 Comments in total

  1. Sam Gardner says:

    I fear your assessment of the donor picture is quite skewed: most money comes indeed from core and flexible allocations, through UNRWA, UNHCR, ICRC, even CERF etc.

    This means that donors like Sweden and the UK show not enough in your story. If you support flexible funding, we should find ways to give due to those who just do that. This article pushes in the end for earmarking.

    24/02/2012 6:34 am

    • Lisa Walmsley says:

      Hi there Sam. Many thanks for your comments. You are right to raise the issue of how much reporting of humanitarian aid fails to take account of these core and flexible contributions. (As you know, that’s exactly what we do in our ‘official’ humanitarian aid calculations that are based on OECD DAC data and reported elsewhere on this site, for example.) I certainly didn’t mean to skew anything : -) I was just presenting the data as published and reported by UN OCHA FTS. (It is not possible to see the provenance of the unearmarked funds allocated by the UN agencies in that data.)

      The OECD DAC has not yet published its data for core contributions to UNHCR, UNRWA, WFP for 2011 (let alone 2012). But I can certainly rework the figures above to acknowledge donor contributions through the CERF a bit later on.. let me go grab some coffee and I’ll get back to you with that later:-)

      24/02/2012 6:51 am

  2. Sam Gardner says:

    Thanks for this Lisa,

    GHA indeed makes a good effort. We should work on the conceptual level on how we present the donor involvement. This is very important. This is why I will always raise the point. Always.

    As flexible funding is flexible, a standard list with total flexible funding and funding compared to GNP might do in all cases. I would guess Sweden, Switserland and some others might score very well on all accounts. Nothing would be wrong highlighting their role always.

    I understood ICRC chooses to accept little additional funding, and works mainly with its core in Syria, giving ICRC more neutrality in the process.

    We should also not forget that a good war-chest of flexible funding is a guarantee authorising the organisations to move in according to needs instead of according to expected funding.

    24/02/2012 8:40 am

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Laura Jump

About the author:
Laura Jump

Laura joined Development Initiatives (DI) in July 2012 as a Senior Engagement and Advocacy Advisor. She works to expand the reach of DI’s work and influence the agenda. Her areas of focus are the Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA) programme and the Investments to End Poverty (ITEP) project.