Syria humanitarian crisis

Syria: Humanitarian funding failing the most vulnerable people in northwest


  • Press releases and public statements

• Older people the ‘forgotten of the forgotten’
• Greater accountability needed by all parties involved in aid delivery
• Local organisations in Syria must be prioritised

In the run-up to the seventh Brussels Conference on ‘Supporting the future of Syria and the region’, HelpAge International is calling for a shake-up of humanitarian funding which they believe is not reaching where it is most needed in northwest Syria. This is attributed to a lack of sufficient funds, poorly targeted funding, political issues and the neglect of older and disabled people.

More funding is urgently needed as only 11% of the Humanitarian Response Plan is currently funded. And what funding is available needs to be targeted towards the areas and the people who need it the most on an impartial basis, using an evidence-based approach that ensures those most at risk are not overlooked.

It is vital that more humanitarian funding reaches the frontline in northwest Syria as quickly as possible. While support to the UN system is welcome, this funding is not reaching local organisations on the ground who know where aid is most needed and are best placed to deliver it,

Karim Alqassab, response manager at HelpAge International.

Lack of access to aid in northern Syria is a major issue. HelpAge is calling upon the UN Security Council to reauthorise cross-border aid from Turkiye for a minimum of 12 months from July 2023 and to add new crossing points that would enable humanitarian organisations to maintain and scale up their activities and provide secure, predictable, long-term support to the people in the region.

Need for Accountability

HelpAge is calling for more accountability for all parties involved in the delivery of aid.

“It is absolutely crucial that international donors ensure accountability of aid allocation and support local crisis response leadership,” says Karim Alqassab. In addition, there is a real risk that the normalisation of the relationship between the Arab states and the Syrian government will lead to aid being directed through the central government and not reaching those most in need.

“We have to see greater leadership and coordination from the UN system and from donor governments to ensure that older people and people with disabilities are included in humanitarian response programmes, have a voice in decision making about issues that concern them and are provided with the protection and assistance they need.

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Older people – the ‘forgotten of the forgotten’

HelpAge International works in partnership with local organisations in the region who have been overwhelmed by the level of need after two devastating earthquakes and 12 years of war. They are particularly concerned that humanitarian response programmes do not take into consideration the needs of older people, including those with disabilities, who often struggle with the impact of living in camps.

The whole population of northern Syria feels forgotten by the international community, but older disabled people feel that they are the forgotten of the forgotten. There seems to be a general apathy to help people in this war-affected region. And the funding that is available sadly ignores their specific needs,

Karim Alqassab, response manager at HelpAge International.

Older people with mobility issues and disabilities are housed in shelters that are largely inaccessible and overcrowded, or tents where they are adversely affected by extremes in temperatures. There is little funding for assistive devices, such as walking sticks and wheelchairs; and there is very little funding for medicines needed to treat chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Mohammed Yousef Ramdan (70) lives with his 68-year-old wife in a tent in a displaced people’s camp. They have been displaced so many times since the war began that they can’t remember.

It’s very hard living here; we have to sleep on the floor. We often only get a couple of hours of sleep a night... Sometimes the tent falls on top of us in the middle of the night. We have to go outside to the toilet and many times we have slipped. My wife has diabetes, but we can’t get the medication she needs at the clinic. It has to be paid for and we have no money. Sometimes we don’t eat, so we can afford the medication.

Mohammed Yousef Ramdan (70).

According to the UN’s Humanitarian Needs Overview 2023, ninety-two per cent of individuals older than 59 have disabilities. Fifty-five per cent of households headed by an older person over the age of 60 expressed different priority needs than the rest of the population, such as the need for health services, medicine and/or specific services related to their disability. These figures represent the whole of Syria, but the situation is particularly dire for older and disabled people in the northwest.

HelpAge, through its local partners, regularly consults with older people and are constantly told about the importance of providing them with cash, which gives them the dignity to buy what they need, not just to receive what organisations think they might need.

Older people are overlooked, despite the valuable contributions they can make in responding to crises and the important roles they play in their families and communities such as caregivers for children or other adults.

“Older people have suffered too much throughout the years of war in Syria and they deserve better,” concludes Karim. “As many emergency lifesaving assistance programmes come to an end, it is vital that more medium and longer-term solutions are put in place that will allow older and disabled people to live with dignity, helping them to recover from years of crisis and be more resilient to future ones.”

For more information and/or interviews please contact Louise Orton: or +44 7939141764.