Guest blog by Henry Kenrick, Political Officer at the British Embassy in Ankara, Turkey

syriaThe eyes of the world are on the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Syria – right on Turkey’s doorstep.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 50,000 Syrians have died. More than 700,000 people have become refugees; and more two million people have had to leave their homes.

The UN has therefore launched its largest ever short-term appeal for Syria and the region – $1.5bn are needed to provide humanitarian aid for the first six months of 2013. The UK is one of the largest bilateral donors to UN relief efforts, alongside the US and Germany. But the UN remains seriously under-funded.

At the donor conference which Kuwait and the UN Secretary-General hosted on 30 January, we announced a further £50m of new British funding, much for the UN appeal. As well as backing the UN, this figure includes support for other campaigns and organisations.

Over the past week we have doubled our aid to date: we are now providing £139.5m (approx. 390m TL). In Kuwait, we called again on other countries to pledge the additional humanitarian aid that is desperately needed.

Turkey, the UK and other countries are working together to alleviate the suffering of those Syrians who have been forced to leave their homes or their country since the beginning of this terrible conflict.

But the work is challenging and dangerous – 26 humanitarian workers have been killed in Syria since the fighting began. The bulk of British aid is directed inside Syria where the need is most acute. Because of security concerns, British officials cannot publicly identify the non-UN agencies that we work with to provide assistance inside Syria. We don’t want people doing a vital job to be targeted.

Turkey’s response to the crisis has been remarkable. The country has opened its doors to more than 150,000 needy Syrians – a number that increases day by day. That generosity is impressive and welcome.

To deliver much-needed help, my colleagues and I in the British Embassy have been working directly with Turkish Red Crescent. For example, we have used British money to buy heaters, strong plastic sheeting to cover tents and other equipment for three of Turkey’s camps. The UK is also one of the main supporters of the World Food Programme scheme that feeds thousands of Syrians in Turkey and more across the region every day.

At the UN and elsewhere, the UK has been pressing hard for a political solution to the Syrian crisis. But for as long as the humanitarian crisis continues, we will do our best to help ordinary Syrians whose lives have been affected.

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