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Welcome cash pledged for Syria but next step needs to be how to improve aid access

Thursday, January 16, 2014
Yesterday in Kuwait, by invitation, Hand in Hand for Syria’s operations director, Mr Fadi Aldairi, attended the Second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, chaired by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and hosted by the Emir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah.

9.3 million Syrian people (around half of the country’s population) are now in urgent need of humanitarian aid, according to the UN, which announced that it will need $6.5 billion for Syria in 2014. By the end of the conference, $2.4 million of that sum had already been pledged.

Hand in Hand for Syria was one of only a handful of charities active inside Syria which were invited to attend the conference. Mr Aldairi used the opportunity to talk to Baroness Valerie Amos, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator, as well as foreign ministers from around the world (including the assistant to the US Secretary of State, John Kerry) about the increasing difficulties faced by aid agencies operating inside Syria. He described the desperate situation of civilians living under siege in places like Yarmouk, Moadamiya and Homs.

Mr Aldairi commented: “We are grateful to all those countries who continue to support the Syrian people — including the UK, which pledged a further £100m at the conference. But Syrians need more than money: millions of them are being denied access to aid, and we urgently need the international community and the UN to focus on changing this situation.”

Mr Aldairi also met with the UK international development secretary, Rt Hon Justine Greening MP, to discuss how the British government can further help Syrians living in the UK (such as international students facing financial hardship). He pressed the need for Britain to review its strict policy on allowing both British and non-British citizens to bring their families from Syria into the country, given that the UK has one of the lowest rates for according visas.

The British foreign secretary, William Hague, today announced he would be meeting with Baroness Amos about how the UK can help the UN improve access to aid inside Syria.