By Alex Whiting
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As the Syrian war nears the end of its fifth year, donors need to do more to help victims of the conflict rebuild their lives, an aid agency said ahead of an international pledging conference in London on Feb. 4.
As well as life-saving aid like food and medicines, donors should fund areas like education, work and agriculture, Concern Worldwide said.
"We're still doing very basic humanitarian relief work - which is necessary but not sufficient," Simon Starling, head of policy and campaigns at Concern Worldwide (UK), said in an interview.
"We've got to be talking about people having access to livelihoods, children being in school, and people protected as far as possible," he added.
"Six years in, we've got to be moving to a situation where we're recognizing this is going to go on, even if there is peace tomorrow, for another 10 to 20 years."
Despite the scale of the crisis, the aid response in Syria and the region is "critically underfunded", Concern Worldwide said.
More than one third of funds pledged to the U.N. Syria appeals in 2015 had not been confirmed by early December, the charity said in a report.
"Donors must commit funds that match the scale and protracted nature of this crisis and they must honor these commitments," Rose Caldwell, executive director of Concern Worldwide (UK), said in a statement.
"Even if a peace agreement was reached tomorrow, the impacts of the conflict will take years, if not decades, to recover from," she added.
Earlier this month, the United Nations launched a joint appeal for $7.7 billion to help 22 million people in Syria and across the region.
"There's a particularly big challenge to fund inside Syria," said Starling, who wrote the report.
Many pledges made at the start of the year are not delivered until the end - "they're effectively too late", Starling said.
"We've got to shift out of these annual short-term ... funding rounds which are unpredictable," he added.
But it is not all about money, he said.
"Without a more coherent ... more ambitious push by the international community to bring an end to the conflict, all this is ultimately a sticking plaster over a wound that's gaping," Starling said.
The war has left more than 250,000 dead and sparked the world's worst refugee crisis since World War Two. Some 4.3 million Syrians have fled the country, and 6.6 million are displaced within Syria.
Next week's donor meeting is being hosted by Britain, Germany, Norway, Kuwait and the United Nations.
(Reporting by Alex Whiting, editing by Tim Pearce.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)