CHRISTIAN organisations and governments around the world are
considering how to respond to the latest prediction from the UN
that ten million Syrians will need aid by the end of this year. The
UN has launched an appeal for £3.2 billion - the largest in its
It estimates that within the coming six months some 3.45-million
Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, and 6.8 million people
in Syria itself will require help.
The chief executive of the Christian relief organisation World
Vision UK, Justin Byworth, said: "We are desperately trying to help
those refugees who need it the most, but . . . we urgently need
more funds to scale up our work."
Lebanon is one of the countries shouldering the burden of the
refugee crisis. "This has gone way beyond Lebanon's ability to
cope," Mr Byworth said. "The world must sit up and take notice of
this widening humanitarian tragedy."
Save the Children says that it continues to work in Syria,
"under very dangerous circumstances", to provide children with
water, medicine, and clothing. In neighbouring countries, it says,
"our teams are trying to meet the growing basic needs of half a
million refugee children."
In London, commenting on the latest UN figures on the rising
number of Syrian refugees, the International Development Secretary,
Justine Greening, said that the UK "has never stood on the
sidelines, and we are ready to play our role".
In Syria, the recent military setbacks suffered by rebel forces
appear to have strengthened the resolve of the Bashar al-Assad
regime to hold on to power. Consequently, there is likely to be
less incentive than before for the Damascus government to take part
in the peace conference that the United States and Russia are
planning to hold in Geneva next month.
The head of the Free Syrian Army, General Salim Idris, told the
BBC last week that he was not interested in taking part in the
international initiative until the EU, which has lifted its arms
embargo, despatched arms to help the rebels. "If we don't receive
ammunition and weapons to change the position on the ground, to
change the balance on the ground, very frankly I can say we will
not go to Geneva."
The Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, Mikhail Bogdanov, said in
an Arab newspaper interview earlier this week: "If the Geneva
conference fails, nothing but one scenario will remain: war, and
Syria's complete destruction."
The clearest evidence of the rebels' starting to lose ground to
the Syrian army came with the fall of the strategically important
town of al-Qusair, close to the Lebanese border. A decisive factor
was the involvement of Lebanese Shia fighters from Hizbollah
alongside Syrian forces.
The Arab Gulf states,were enraged by Hizbollah's involvement.
One effect of this has been a rapprochement between Saudi Arabia
and Qatar, which had been backing different factions but are now
united against a common enemy.
It is a further sign of growing Sunni-Shia tension in the
region.This is visible not just in Syria, but also in Lebanon,
Iraq, Kuwait, and Bahrain. Even if peace eventually comes to Syria,
dealing with the sectarian fallout from that crisis will remain a
Death-toll estimate rises.
On Thursday, the UN said that its latest figures indicate
that at least 93,000 people have been killed in Syria
since the start of the conflict. This marks a
rise of more than 30,000 since the UN last issued figures, covering
the period to November 2012. The UN's human rights body says that
at least 5000 people have been dying in Syria every month since
last July. But it says these statistics are an underestimate,
as it believes that many deaths have not been reported.