OTTAWA – Canada is being called upon to pledge nearly $180 million towards a record-breaking international aid appeal for Syria this year.
With the Syrian civil war in its fifth year, the United Nations is making an $8.4-billion appeal for funds at a major international pledging conference in Kuwait.
That’s twice the combined totals of UN appeals over the last two years.
The increase reflects a dire and deteriorating situation in Syria and neighbouring countries as they contend with an overflow of refugees.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is hosting the Kuwait meeting as he promotes efforts to get humanitarian assistance to millions within Syria and about 3.9 million refugees outside the country.
A report by Oxfam proposes a fair share that countries ought to donate and suggests Canada’s contribution should be $178.4 million for 2015, after contributing about $50 million in the first quarter of this year.
“They’re doing fine for now, but if it stays at $50 million Cdn for the whole year, that’s going to be a big gap in the funding of this crisis,” said Jean-Baptiste Lacombe, head of Oxfam-Quebec.
A spokesman for International Development Minister Christian Paradis did not say whether the government has plans for increased aid for Syria, but hinted more was coming.
“Canada has been involved since the onset of each crisis and we will continue to remain at the forefront of the global response,” Louis Longchamps said in an email.
Paradis won’t be attending the conference, but will send Diane Jacovella, the department’s assistant deputy minister for global issues and development.
Canada has so far contributed $700 million in humanitarian assistance for the Syrian crisis, which started in March 2011 as a popular uprising against President Bashar Assad.
It has since degenerated into a multi-sided civil war that has claimed 220,000 lives and helped to spawn the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has claimed territory and enslaved and murdered civilians across Iraq and Syria.
Canadian fighter jets are expected to begin bombing targets in Syria soon as a part of an expansion of Canada’s role with the U.S.-led effort to degrade ISIL’s capability.
The Liberals and NDP opposed the extension of the military mission for another year and want the government to provide more humanitarian aid.
Based on its past spending, Canada fares well in the Oxfam assessment, which calculates the level of spending that rich countries should reach, based on gross national income and other economic indicators.
In 2014, Canada contributed $150.6 million, which Oxfam said amounted to 91 per cent of its fair share.
Kuwait is the most generous donor, contributing $300 million or more than 1,100 per cent of its fair share. It is followed by its Gulf neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, at well over 300 per cent.
Kuwait opened the international conference Tuesday by pledging another $500 million in humanitarian aid for the war-ravaged country.
The UN World Food Program said it needs more money than ever before to reach six million people in need.
Last year, it raised a record $1 billion, but this year it is asking for $1.5 billion.
In a recent interview, Jane Pearce, head of WFP operations in Iraq, described the measures taken to feed people in that country, including in ISIL-held territory.
The extremists don’t want to deal with the UN, which forces the agency to deliver food in unmarked bags, she said.
“It’s an efficient system, but doesn’t provide nearly enough regular assistance to people,” said Pearce.
“But it is something and it is everything we possibly can do.”