More Bad News for Syrian Refugees, With Many Funders Still MIA

Every year, the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) brings more attention to refugee issues through its World Refugee Day Campaign. This year, with a record number of refugees struggling to survive worldwide, actors, models and musicians got onboard to help “tell the human side of the refugee plight.” The campaign has now come and gone, with more bad news piling up about refugeesmost recently, huge numbers of people are fleeing fighting in Yemen.

But nowhere are things worse than in the Middle East, with the ongoing plight of millions of Syrian refugees. This is a crisis that we track closely at IP, seeing it as a profound test of philanthropy's ability to address some of the most urgent cases of mass human suffering in the world in a major way. The results so far are deeply discouraging. While philanthropy has done a pretty good job of responding to earthquakes and pandemics lately, it's dropped the ball on refugees, particularly in the Middle East. 

The Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) is a consolidated leadership framework that addresses the needs of Syrian refugee host communities in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq. The 3RP highlights a number of key achievements made to date like the 1.8 million people that received food assistance and the 58,000 households that received shelter assistance.

However, the progress made to date is overshadowed by the $3.5 billion funding shortfall to the 3RPs international plea of $4.5 billion needed for UN agencies and NGOs.

António Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, once again addressed the international community, calling for more “solidarity and responsibility sharing.” He also warned that the UNHCR is “so dangerously low on funding that we risk not being able to meet even the most basic survival needs of millions of people over the coming six months.”

The funding gap for the Syrian refugee crisis has been steadily growing for a while now. Earlier this year, the UN's World Food Programme was forced to reduce its food assistance to some 1.6 million Syrian refugees spread across five countries. Right now, it looks inevitable that those cuts are only going to get deeper if the international community continues to ignore the UNHCR's cries for help.

In our coverage of the Syrian refugee crisis so far, we've often spotlighted the funders who are paying attention to the crisis. Among those funders that stand out is the UPS Foundation.

Related: In Nepal and Beyond, This Corporate Funder Takes on the World’s Biggest Disasters

Given the news of the UNHCRs $3.5 billion shortfall, we reached out the director of the UPS Foundation’s Humanitarian Relief and Resilience program, Joe Ruiz, to get his take on what's happening right now. 

“Everyone has the right, and should have the ability to have a home and to live with dignity,” Ruiz said, “We’ve put in additional funding for Syrian refugees and internally displaced people because we know that the crisis is continuing to scale and get bigger and bigger.”

As part of that support, the UPS Foundation has provided an additional $170,000 specifically for Syrian refugees and internally displaced people. The foundation is also working with the UNHCR for the expansion of its UPS Relief Link program to improve humanitarian supply chain logistics in Syrian refugee camps.

Previously, the UPS Foundation gave UNICEF more than $1 million to support its work with Syrian refugees in addition to delivering 20,000 winter clothing kits to Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Iraq and 220,000 pounds of emergency aid to the region including health kits, education kits, water and sanitation supplies, and ready-to-use therapeutic food.

The UPS Foundation isn’t the lone funder in the fight for Syrian refugees.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation allocated $1.2 million so far for Syrian-related work, including a $750,000 grant to the International Medical Corps to address the health needs of refugees in Turkey. Hamdi Ulukaya, the Turkish-born founder of Chobani yogurt pledged $2 million to the UNHCR and IRC to aid Syrian refugees and the Open Society Foundations has given at least $1 million in Syria-related grants in recent years. The Ikea Foundation is also a big contributor here and is the largest private funder of the UNHCR.

Joe Ruiz said, “We realize the global implications of the Syrian crisis.” If only more funders would get right with that statement, maybe the UNHCR wouldn’t be continually faced with multi-billion-dollar funding shortfalls.