National Press Club

Funding to aid Syrian humanitarian crisis 'grossly inadequate,' says Mercy Corps CEO

October 8, 2013 | By Jennifer Ejim |

Neal Keny-Guyer, chief executive officer of Mercy Corps, an international NGO and responder to the Syria crisis, called the situation in Syria “the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis,” at a National Press Club Newsmaker, Oct. 8.

“The speed of the refugee crisis in Syria is the worst we’ve seen since the Rwandan genocide, and the current funding pledged is grossly inadequate to meet the needs,” he said.

More than two million Syrians, of whom more than one million are children, have fled the conflict in their country and taken refuge in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, Keny-Guyer said. He noted that the influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon has increased the population of that country by more than 20 percent, without a corresponding increase in resources.

Keny-Guyer called on the global community to “up its game.”

Global leaders must protect the innocent by pushing for peace, "and in the absence of peace, to meet the massive humanitarian needs of those affected by war,” he said.

He said the international community had not fully met the request of the United Nations for $4.4 billion. Only 40 percent of that amount has been raised so far, he pointed out, mostly from the United States and Britain. Since the crisis in Syria is in its third year, Keny-Guyer emphasized the necessity of funding more long-term projects, especially infrastructure development,

“We’re spending too much of scarce money to distribute free food when we should also be investing more in creating jobs, so that people can earn a living and buy their own food in the local market, which would have the beneficial side effect of stimulating the local economy, rather than undermining it with too many free things,” he said.

Keny-Guyer urged more investment in education and health-care. For aid to be effective, he said, it has to complement and bolster the efforts of host communities. He said the international community should also help Syria’s neighbors financially and politically absorb the large number of new residents.