Saving lives, preserving dignity and securing the future in Syria

05 Nov 2015

RDF Now into its fifth year, the Syrian crisis has claimed over 250,000 lives and displaced over 12 million people from their homes. Photo: UNDP Syria

The whole world is acutely aware of the grim facts of the Syria crisis. Now into its fifth year, it’s claimed over 250,000 lives, displaced over 12 million from their homes, devastated the country, and rolled back Syria’s development indicators by four decades.

Less known but also vitally important is the impact the crisis has had on neighboring countries who have generously accommodated record numbers of refugees and are reeling from the strains that come with such monumental solidarity.

For more than four years, UNDP has been championing a resilience-based response to the Syria crisis, a response that is working to save lives, preserve dignity and secure the future in Syria and neighboring countries.

UNDP’s response is to work with sister agencies such as OCHA and UNHCR to ensure that while all await a desperately-needed cessation of hostilities, we are helping communities in Syria and neighboring countries cope, recover where possible, and lay the groundwork so that when peace arrives, it can be sustained.

This is the essence of resilience, and the lens through which we approach our work in response to this crisis. In Syria, we’ve been able to help over 4.5 million people directly and indirectly. We’ve created thousands of emergency jobs, including those for women-headed households and people with disabilities. We’ve removed 300,000 tons of solid waste from communities.

These are wise investments. Every cent invested in these ways helps lessen the flow of refugees out of Syria, and builds hope for recovery once peace prevails.

The largest programmes in neighboring countries are in Jordan, which has accommodated over 630,000 refugees, and Lebanon, which is hosting around 1.1 million refugees. Today, one out of every four persons in Lebanon is a refugee from Syria.

In these countries, resilience means working with local authorities to ensure that not only the needs of refugees are met, but also that local host communities and countries are able to withstand this difficult period.

For example, in Lebanon UNDP is part of a response that has budgeted US$60 million to support the delivery of water, health and education services in 100 high-risk municipalities. In Jordan, we are working with partners to rehabilitate a landfill, where residents have coped with the inability of municipal services to keep up with new demands by burning and illegally dumping tons of solid waste.

Connecting immediate and longer-term needs is much appreciated by the communities we support and by the Governments of host countries, which have been sounding the alarm for necessary support in order to continue extending the remarkable generosity they have thus far.

The resilience approach has gained traction amongst partners, but we need much more. With resources under pressure everywhere, the UN response to the Syria crisis has been seriously underfunded, with devastating consequences that are becoming clearer with every passing day.

Next week in Amman, UNDP is convening a Resilience Development Forum, hosted by the Government of Jordan, where partners will discuss the four major themes of resilience inside Syria, aid architecture, social stability, and private sector support for resilience.

This is a key opportunity to better integrate the humanitarian and development responses and widen partnerships in response to this unprecedented crisis.

The suffering will go on longer. There is no time to wait – the time for partners to support resilience is now.

Read more about the Resilience Development Forum and UNDP’s response to the Syria crisis.

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