Press Release

Belgium pledges an additional €2 million of humanitarian aid for disaster area in Syria

Minister of Development Cooperation and Major Cities Caroline Gennez pledges an additional €2 million for the ailing population in Syria after the severe earthquake six weeks ago. This announcement was made on the occasion of a special EU donor conference in Brussels.

Six weeks after  the earthquake the situation in the affected areas in Turkey and Syria is still critical: the death toll has risen to more than 55,000. Millionsof people depend on international humanitarian aid and survive day by day;  hundreds of thousands of families are staying in makeshift encampments, without access to running water, electricity or heat. More than 850,000 children have been displaced.

The situation in Syria is even more dramatic. Due to the protracted conflict, the humanitarian need was already enormous before the disaster. 6.8 million people  – including 3 million children – have had to leave  their homes because of the civil war.  Another 500,000 people are now displaced due to the effects of the earthquake.

"The impact of the disaster is incalculable," minister Gennez said. "For many Syrians, life was already extremely difficult – now it has become impossible.  For the second time in their lives, they have lost everything. That is why it is so important that we maintain the solidarity we have shown in the first days and weeks after the disaster. Hence this extra support. We must not forget the plight of the Syrian people."

The €2 million would go to humanitarian partner organisations of the EU that have been active in the area for some time and therefore know the needs well. The aid would mainly focus on providing shelter, hygiene products and sanitation, and medical care and medication.

Earlier, Belgium gave €4 million to the UN cross-border fund that provides humanitarian aid to the  rebel-held area in Syria via the Turkish border. We also increased our contribution for the Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF), the emergency fund  of the International Federation of  Red Cross  and Red Crescents, whose local chapters can respond quickly to such disasters worldwide. Belgium also sent  a B-Fast team that set up a  field hospital in Kirikhan and administered  medical care to more than 3,000 patients. The hospital has since been handed over to the Turkish authorities.

In addition to announcing additional financial support, Minister Gennez stresses the need to guarantee the long-term delivery of humanitarian aid to the affected areas in northwest Syria, which are largely controlled by opposition forces: "In the  first days after the earthquake, it was difficult to  get emergency aid to northwest Syria.  There were hardly any rescue teams present.  Fortunately, there are now several corridors that have opened up between northwest Syria and Turkeye – we hope they will remain open.  Political conflicts should never prevent getting help to those in need."

The EU Donors' Conference will take place at the same time as the European Humanitarian Forum on 20 and 21 March in Brussels. This Forum brings together European governments, international aid organisations and private actors to discuss and raise awareness on the growing humanitarian needs in the world.

"Unfortunately, the disaster in Turkey and Syria is not the only humanitarian crisis at the moment; there is the war in Ukraine, the escalating violence in eastern Congo, food insecurity in Yemen, Afghanistan and  East Africa, more and more climate disasters, such as recently in Mozambique... We cannot look away and leave people to fend for themselves. Belgium is a reliable and loyal donor to many international aid organisations, such as the International Red Cross (ICRC and  IFRC) and the UN CoordinationCentre for Humanitarian Disasters (OCHA). During our recent trip to Geneva, where many of these organizations are headquartered, we have been thanked explicitly for our support several times. But given the scale of the devastation in Turkey and Syria  –  the earthquake is one of the biggest natural disasters of this century – reconstruction and recovery will take years.  I will therefore continue to plead within the federal government for additional support for the affected population," concludes Minister Gennez.