The conference "Supporting Syria and the Region," organized by Norway, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Kuwait, kicks off on Feb 3. in London. About 60 States will participate in the high-level meeting which aims to decide how to help Syria and the countries hosting Syrian refugees. Delegates will focus on three topics: the protection of civilians, education, and food aid.
“After five years of conflict, the goals set by the London conference must be commensurate with the terrible scale of the humanitarian tragedy in Syria and the surrounding region,” says Anne Héry, director of advocacy for Handicap International.
As a key actor responding to the Syrian crisis, Handicap International joined a global coalition of more than 90 humanitarian and human rights groups in urging world leaders in London to commit to an ambitious and transformational new multi-billion dollar deal for Syrian refugees and the countries hosting them in the region. The joint briefing paper can be viewed here.
Handicap International teams, currently totaling 370 professionals, have worked in Lebanon and Jordan since 2012, in Syria since March 2013, and in Iraq supporting refugees and displaced Iraqis since May 2014.
Handicap International is especially keen to see better protection of civilians from the effects of war, calling for an end to all attacks on civilians, including attacks on schools, homes, and medical facilities, and an end to violations of international humanitarian law inside Syria.
The risks posed by mines and explosive remnants of war are acute in Syria, as highlighted in our May 2015 fact sheet: “Kobani: a city of rubble and unexploded devices.” It’s imperative that humanitarian mine action operations be allowed to begin as soon as possible in Syria. All governments and stakeholders at the conference should acknowledge that humanitarian mine action is essential, and understand the significant risks that unexploded ordnance and landmines— improvised or manufactured—pose to Syrian communities and humanitarian actors.
In particular, donors should commit to funding weapons risk education, weapons survey work, and ultimately the clearance of explosive remnants of war, while building capacity among Syrians to effectively respond to these threats in the long-term. Victim assistance programs, including rehabilitation services and access to them, are a vital action that donors should support.
In nearly 35 years of work, Handicap International has seen vulnerable people often left out of emergency responses, and teams have worked diligently to support and enable their inclusion. “The inclusion of vulnerable people, such as older people, pregnant women, and people with disabilities, in the humanitarian aid effort must feature among the commitments made by States," Héry notes.
In London, Handicap International is urging donors to recognize the increased challenges faced by older people, those living with a disability, or who are injured, in accessing basic services and meeting basic and specific needs. A 2014 report, co-authored with HelpAge, found that older, disabled, and injured Syrian refugees are being doubly victimized as a result of the Syria conflict. Among Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, 30% have specific needs. Donors must provide medium- and long-term funding to support key areas of national-level response, in particular weaknesses in health system management of chronic diseases, mental healthcare and post-operative, rehabilitation and care services.