Exclusive: Syrian aid in crisis as Gulf states renege on promises

Food rationing for refugees planned as $650m pledged to UN remains undelivered

Millions of Syrian refugees face food rationing and cutbacks to critical medical programmes because oil-rich Gulf states have failed to deliver the funding they promised for emergency humanitarian aid, an investigation by The Independent on Sunday has found.

Arab states and aid groups, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain, have failed to deliver $650m (£420m) in pledges they made at an emergency United Nations conference in Kuwait four months ago.

The severe shortfall, together with predictions that the Syrian refugee crisis could triple by the end of the year, is forcing UN aid agencies to plan for food rationing and to scale back health programmes including vaccinations.

The World Food Programme (WFP), the food aid arm of the UN, says it is spending $19m a week to feed 2.5 million refugees inside Syria and a further 1.5 million who have fled to official camps in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. By July, the WFP says, there is no guarantee that its work on the Syrian crisis can continue.

A spokesman said: "We are already in a hand-to-mouth situation. Beyond mid-June – who knows?"

David Cameron last night called on other governments to come good on their pledges. The Prime Minister said: "The scale of the crisis requires the international community to step up its efforts to ensure that we really are getting help to those who need it most.

"Britain was one of the first to respond to the growing humanitarian crisis and I'm proud of the role we've played since then."

The IoS investigation tracked the flow of aid money from 42 states who pledged a total of $1.5bn at a high-level donor conference in Kuwait City last January. The scale of the missing pledges has left a large hole in UN aid budgets for Syrian refugees, with pledges from rich Gulf states accounting for more than half of the Kuwaiti conference total.

Senior sources in New York close to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, said diplomatic back channels are being used by the UN to urge those Arab countries who promised to help to fulfil their pledges.

The emergency conference in Kuwait – hosted by the Emir of Kuwait and chaired by Mr Ban – promised to bring a "message of hope" to the four million Syrian refugees. Mr Ban proclaimed the outcome a shining example of "global solidarity in action". The reality has been markedly different.

Using databases managed by the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs – which records reported international aid, including NGOs, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, and private bilateral donations – the pledges made in Kuwait can be measured against what has since been contributed.

Saudi Arabia pledged $78m. As of 1 May, the kingdom was recorded as contributing $21.6m. The United Arab Emirates pledged $300m. It has given $18.4m. Qatar, which will spend tens of billions hosting the 2022 football World Cup, pledged $100m to the UN effort. It is recorded as delivering $2.7m. Bahrain, which last month hosted a Formula One grand prix at a recently built $2bn circuit, pledged $20m. There has been no recorded aid given since. Iraq pledged $10m in Kuwait; nothing has yet been recorded in aid delivered.

Alarm bells began ringing at the UN in March when only a fifth of the total pledges made at Kuwait had been delivered. Since then the United States has delivered $219m, with the UK adding $129m.

Kuwait became the single largest donor in April when it announced in Geneva that $300m had been "officially allocated".

The UN regarded the pledges made by Gulf states in Kuwait in January as a potentially significant shift in global aid. Arab nations have traditionally used their own bilateral routes to target aid and have mostly operated outside UN auspices.

Oxfam said: "The League of Arab States must urge all Arab countries that have pledged to the Syrian crisis to be transparent and to share information about their commitments, and mechanisms for fulfilling their pledges."

Mousab Kerwat, Islamic Relief's Middle East institutional funding manager, said: "It's better for countries to stay away from donor conferences than to attend and make pledges they don't intent to keep. As a minimum, they should communicate where their pledges have gone in a transparent process.

"We appreciate the support we get from the Gulf states, and they do good work that goes unrecognised, but in the case of the Syria crisis we would like to see them contribute more – particularly through NGOs that have the capacity to deliver to hard-to-reach areas."

The IoS and aid agencies contacted the London embassies of all the Gulf states behind on their Kuwait promises to ask for comment. Only Bahrain replied, saying the complexity in finding out who was responsible for aid policy meant an answer would be difficult to deliver.

Refugee camp eyewitness: Enjoli Liston in Zaatari, Jordan

Dense dust clouds swirl round Zaatari, the makeshift city of 140,000 refugees – Syrians who have fled to the Jordanian desert. Skinny boys dart between the seemingly endless rows of tents emblazoned with the blue UN logo, selling cigarettes and crisps to earn a few dinars for their families.

"The stability of the camp is extremely fragile," says Kilian Kleinschmidt, camp director. Two weeks ago, he was beaten by a gang using tent-poles distributed by his own aid agency. Riots and attacks on aid workers are not uncommon. Smuggling, trafficking and sexual violence are major problems. "Anything can happen at any time," acknowledges Mr Kleinschmidt.

Limited access to health care and a lack of work fuel tensions. A further source of resentment is the "Saudi quarter", in which some Syrian families live in prefabricated "caravans" paid for with donations from Saudi Arabia. It costs around $1m a day to run Zaatari. The World Food Programme distributes 26 tonnes of bread daily. Unicef must find 3.5 million litres of water a day for the camp in one of the world's driest countries. Meanwhile, the number of refugees in Jordan alone is set to reach one million by the end of 2013.

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home