UN appeals for $6.5bn for Syria crisis in 2014
GENEVA // The United Nations yesterday appealed for a record Dh23.9 billion to help ever-growing numbers of victims of Syria’s spiralling conflict next year, when refugee numbers are set to nearly double.
The impact and cost of the Syrian crisis “has exceeded all previous benchmarks”, the UN said.
The Syrian appeal – the most money ever requested to help victims of a single conflict – makes up nearly half of the total Dh47.4bn the UN is seeking to provide emergency aid to some 52 million people in 17 countries worldwide next year.
“This is the largest amount we have ever had to request at the start of the year,” the UN humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos told, said in Geneva, adding that amid a range of complex conflicts raging in places such as the Central African Republic, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, needs were expected to rise further during the year.
Last year, the UN agencies and other humanitarian aid organisations had appealed for Dh31.2bn for 2013, but upped that figure to Dh49.2bn. So far, they have received just Dh29.4bn, Ms Amos said.
Explaining the hike for 2014, she pointed to the Syrian civil war, which has raged for 33 months and killed more than 126,000 people, with no end in sight.
Civilians form a large part of the casualties in fighting between government forces and rebels trying to oust the president, Bashar Al Assad. At least 76 people, including 28 children, were killed in regime airstrikes on the city of Aleppo on Sunday, according to revised toll issued by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights yesterday.
The Britain-based monitoring group said there were further strikes on the northern city yesterday, as well as in the southern province of Deraa.
The civil war has put an enormous strain on neighbouring countries, where hundreds of thousands of refugees are sheltering in tents as the winter sets in.
Monday’s appeal came as the International Rescue Committe warned in a report that four out of five Syrians are now worried about food running out.
The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said almost half of Syria’s population of 22 million had unreliable food sources and 6.3 million people needed urgent, life-saving food aid.
The WFP said it aimed to help feed more than seven million people inside Syria and in neighbouring countries next year.
“Last year we were talking about one million people [inside Syria] in need. That figure went up to 6.5 million. It has now gone up to 9.3 million,” Ms Amos said.
There are meanwhile some 250,000 people in Syria in so-called “siege communities” whom aid workers have not been able to get to in “eight, nine, 10 months” and who are lacking food and medicine, she said.
In addition, about 2.5 million people live in places difficult to reach on a consistent basis, she said.
Including the current 2.4 million Syrians living as refugees in surrounding countries, more than half of the country’s pre-crisis population is in need of aid.
The UN appeal hinted the number of Syrians living as refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt could nearly double to 4.1 million by the end of 2014.
In all, 660,000 Syrians will be living in refugee camps by the end of next year, while another 3.44 million will be living in private accommodations, the appeal said.
The countries themselves already put the number at around three million, five times the 588,000 Syrians who were registered as refugees in the region a year ago.
In addition, about 2.7 million non-Syrians in the host countries are expected to need humanitarian aid due to the impact of the crisis next door by the end of 2014, up from 1.8 million today.
“This is a tragedy,” said Antonio Guterres, who heads the UN refugee agency.
He insisted that the countries in the region need “massive solidarity” from the international community to cope with a conflict that has evolved into “the most dangerous crisis for global peace and security since World War II”.
While hailing the generosity of Syria’s neighbours, Mr Guterres acknowledged that he was “disappointed” that European countries were doing so little to help the refugees.
“There is something fundamentally wrong when a Syrian family ... needs to take a boat with high risk of drowning to get to Europe,” he said.
He called for “mechanisms” such as visa and resettlement programmes “to allow for people to reach safety without having to put themselves in the hands of smugglers and traffickers, who are some of the worst criminals in today’s world.”
* Agence France-Presse
Published: December 16, 2013 04:00 AM