A funding crunch in Syria threatens a programme with huge humanitarian impact
April 7, 2021: The HALO Trust has launched a major fundraising campaign to keep its live-saving work in Syria operating in the face of a funding shortfall. HALO is determined to do all it can to keep its projects in Syria operating.
Until recently HALO's Syria programme had been funded by the European Union's emergency humanitarian arm ECHO. However, the UK's departure from the European Union at the end of the transition period at end 2020 has meant HALO is no longer eligible for EU funding.
Cuts to the UK's overseas development assistance has meant that the UK has not, as expected, stepped in to replace the funding shortfall.
James Cowan, HALO's CEO told Sky News in UK: "We very much do not want want to close the programme and continue to seek new donors."
HALO's operations in northwest Syria include clearing the dangerous debris left behind by ten years of civil war. HALO works in a corner of the country where the population has been doubled by civilians fleeing fighting and Government of Syria advances. An estimated 5.5 million people are crammed into a space where huge tracts of land and over 400 villages have evidence of explosive dangers.
At the beginning of December eight year old Yasmine (above) went out to play with five other children from Al Mansour camp for displaced families in Harim, northern Idleb. The children included her cousins, six year old Nisreen and four year old Samer. They found an object that looked unusual. Curious, they started to bang it with a stone.
The children had picked up an explosive, probably a cluster bomb, one of the many lethal pieces of explosive that scar the region. The force of the blast rocked the camp. The other children had suffered serious injuries, Nisreen had fractures to her right leg and left arm. Yasmine was blinded in one eye.
A large part of HALO"s work is providing lessons on what to look out for to girls, boys and adults. Since 2017 500,000 people who have received risk education. For every accident involving explosives left behind by the fighting, on average one person is killed and two others are injured.
HALO works with two Syrian partners, Shafak Organization and Hand in Hand for Aid and Development, along with the Turkish NGO, iMFAD, to deliver risk education sessions. Over the past four years their teams have visited schools, community centres, homes and refugee camps to ensure these life saving lessons reach those most at risk.
HALO and its partners also provide medical support to the survivors of unexploded munitions, including prosthetic limbs and physical rehabilitation treatment. In areas where we cannot yet destroy explosive hazards we are surveying and marking them to ensure local people stay away from danger areas. All this work is carried out by local women and men from Syria, trying to make the own families and communities safer.