Monday September 30, 2013

Secretary of State Justine Greening debates with Islamic Relief: ‘Where now for aid to Syria and what role for Britain?’

At this week’s Conservative Party conference Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development and MP for Putney, will speak at a fringe debate organised by Islamic Relief and New Statesman to address the question: ‘Where now for aid to Syria and what role for Britain?’

Ms Greening will discuss the issues raised by the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with three other well informed speakers: Jehangir Malik, Islamic Relief’s UK Director; Chris Doyle, Director of the Council for Arab British Understanding (Caabu); and journalist and commentator Nabila Ramdani.

The event will take place from 12.30 to 2pm in Central 5 within the Manchester Central Conference Centre on Tuesday, October 1.

The Syrian conflict is the worst humanitarian crisis for 20 years. Some 100,000 people are dead, 400,000 have been injured and seven million have been driven from their homes. Two million of these have fled to neighbouring countries, placing a huge strain on the authorities there.

“UN agencies have received less than half the funding they requested for the Syrian crisis this year,” says Islamic Relief’s Jehangir Malik. “The refugees living in camps have food and shelter but the camps are full to overflowing. Those living in local communities face having to pay high rents, and only some receive financial assistance for this because of underfunding.

“Inside Syria things are much worse. International assistance is restricted by the extent of the conflict and the limits of the UN’s mandate, which means it has to operate through Damascus. Many parts of the country can only be reached by cross-border operations, without official UN sanction or protection. Organisations such as Islamic Relief are doing our best, but people are living in very basic conditions.”

How should the international community, and the UK in particular, respond to this huge humanitarian crisis? In the wake of the parliamentary vote against UK military intervention, David Cameron has vowed that the UK will lead the world in getting humanitarian aid to the people of Syria. The UK has already committed £400 million in humanitarian aid – the largest total sum allocated by the UK to a single crisis. But how best can more of those affected inside Syria be reached, targeting aid where the need is greatest and staunching the unsustainable flow of refugees?

Islamic Relief is providing food, shelter, medical aid and other assistance to over 725,000 people inside Syria and another 310,000 in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. Our latest video about the crisis and our response to it is available on the Syria Appeal page

Islamic Relief and its supporters are urging the Prime Minister to take action in four key areas:

Press for peace

Ultimately there can no humanitarian solution to a political problem. A date needs to be set for the peace talks promised in May by Presidents Obama and Putin.

Act for access

It is inside Syria where the suffering is greatest. The UK could lead in helping to negotiate ‘humanitarian corridors’ to get aid safely and effectively to those who need it most.

Raise resources

More British aid should be delivered inside Syria, and more could be done to encourage other aid donors to match Britain’s generosity.

Keep borders open

Further chemical attacks and/or military escalation could worsen the refugee crisis. International aid donors need to ensure that neighbouring countries continue to get the support they need to keep their borders open.

For more information or to arrange an interview with Jehangir Malik, please contact Martin Cottingham (martin.cottingham@islamic-relief.org.uk / 07702-940982).

 

September 29, 2013

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