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Crisis management Switzerland ups its aid pledge to Syria

A cold winter has made life even more difficult for Syrian refugees


In light of the continually worsening humanitarian situation during a harsh winter, Switzerland will pledge an additional CHF30 million ($33 million) in aid to Syria at an upcoming United Nations donor conference.

On January 15, the UN will convene its latest international donor conference in Kuwait, where it will appeal to member countries to contribute a total of $6.5 billion in assistance to Syria in 2014 – its largest appeal yet.

Since March 2011, Switzerland has pledged CHF55 million to people affected by the Syrian crisis; the additional pledge will bring its total contribution to CHF85 million.

The number of refugees from the Syrian civil war has more than tripled in the last year to 2.3 million and is expected to exceed four million by the end of 2014. The number of people reliant on humanitarian aid in Syria has doubled in the last year, reaching 9.3 million. A harsh winter in the Middle East has made their plight more difficult and dangerous.

“It is a priority for Switzerland to counter the catastrophic consequences this crisis is having on Syria and the region,” said Manuel Bessler, the government's Delegate for Humanitarian Aid who will pledge Switzerland’s contribution at the UN donor conference on Wednesday.

Bessler also stressed the importance of sending aid to Syria’s neighbours, who are absorbing most of the refugee flood.

“Considering that some 5,000 Syrians are fleeing to neighbouring countries every day and that in Lebanon almost one person in five is now a Syrian refugee, the international donor community must also support the countries that are taking on this additional burden,” Bessler told the media on Monday.

Humanitarian corridors

Meanwhile, Peter Maurer, the head of the Swiss-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), has travelled to Syria to assess the situation on the ground and attempt to open up corridors for humanitarian aid workers to reach those in need.

On Monday, Maurer spoke with Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halki about the possibility of easing blockades around rebel strongholds to allow humanitarian aid to pass through. However, al-Halki did not show any willingness to do so on the part of the Syrian regime, calling the rebels “terrorists” who would use civilians as “human shields”, thereby worsening the humanitarian crisis.

The Syrian exile opposition has named the release of political prisoners and the installation of humanitarian corridors as its conditions for participating in the peace talks slated to take place in the Swiss city of Montreux beginning on January 22. and agencies

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