Iceland generously funds UNHCR with USD 2.4 million.

Iceland has increased its support to UNHCR’s response to the Syria crisis considerably, showing great solidarity with refugees and internally displaced people. The USD 2.4 million contribution is the highest ever to UNHCR by Iceland.

Hala, 11, leads young Syrian refugees, including her 10-year-old sister, Rahaf (5th from right), in a game at their settlement in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. ©UNHCR/Andrew McConnel

Since 2001, Iceland has donated almost USD 4 million to UNHCR. In 2015, Iceland contributed USD 600,000 to the Syria crisis. With this considerable increase in funding Iceland becomes the fifth largest donor per capita to UNHCR in 2016, and reacts to the ever-widening funding gap and the increasing global humanitarian needs.

Five years on, Syria’s conflict has spawned 4.8 million refugees in neighbouring countries with 6.6 million people displaced inside Syria against a pre-war population of over 20 million. Since 2011, an average of 1200 Syrian families have been displaced every day.

Hala, 11, and her five siblings are among the millions of refugees who have fled their homes in Syria. Hala and one of her brothers were playing in their garden when their neighbourhood was bombed. When an air strike hit their house it destroyed their home and killed their mother.

“I was playing outside when our house crumbled. I saw people carrying my mom downstairs.”

Hala, 11, Syrian child who found refuge in Lebanon.

Escaping the war, the children were forced to flee to Lebanon. The siblings, now in safety in a tented settlement in central Bekaa, East Lebanon, believe that their father, who was last seen in Syria, is most likely dead.

“My father told us it was best if we fled to Lebanon. We haven’t heard from him since the day we left.”

Hala, 11, Syrian child who found refuge in Lebanon.

The tragic and heart-rending fate of the family underlines why the protection of displaced children is a core priority of UNHCR. UNHCR ensures that displaced children can access and learn in a quality learning environment by e.g. constructing education facilities, facilitating affordable healthcare and ensuring community and institutional protection of children at risk of violence.

The contribution from Iceland shows solidarity with the people in need, such as Hala and her siblings, as well as solidarity with the neighbouring refugee hosting countries, where Syrians arrive daily to escape the war.

If you are interested in reading more about UNHCR and partners’ response plans in Syria and neighbouring countries:

Press release by the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs: