U.N. seeks billions for Syria at Kuwait donors’ meet

A Syrian Kurdish refugee child from the Kobani area, holds on to a fence at a camp in Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014.

A Syrian Kurdish refugee child from the Kobani area, holds on to a fence at a camp in Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014.

A major U.N. donors’ conference that aims to raise billions of dollars for Syria opens Tuesday in Kuwait with experts warning of a “humanitarian catastrophe” unfolding in the war-torn country.

The United Nations has launched an appeal to raise $8.4 billion this year, and hopes to receive major pledges at the one-day conference which will be attended by delegates from 78 nations.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will chair the third International Pledging Conference for Syria, which will be opened by Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

“Failing to meet the required funds risks resulting in a horrifying and dangerous humanitarian catastrophe,” Abdullah al-Maatuq, U.N. special envoy for humanitarian affairs, has said.

The conference is being held as the humanitarian situation deteriorates in Syria with many international aid agencies complaining that a shortage of funding could lead to their operations being halted.

Ahead of the meeting, around 40 international non-governmental organizations pledged $506 million, way higher than funds promised at two previous NGO conferences.

U.N. humanitarian affairs chief Valerie Amos said the donor response at Tuesday’s conference “needs to be comprehensive.”

She said the humanitarian situation had deteriorated in Syria with no reduction in violence and children particularly affected.

At the first and second conferences, also hosted by Kuwait, pledges of $1.5 billion and $2.4 billion were made. However, the United Nations has complained that not all pledges were honored.

Ban said in a report last week that devastation from the fighting in Syria had left around 7.6 million people internally displaced.

Another 3.9 million have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

“Every day brings more death, displacement and destruction,” the U.N. report said.

With the conflict now in its fifth year, almost half of all Syrians have been forced to flee their homes, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

Of the $8.4 billion needed, $5.5 billion is for refugees in neighboring nations and $2.9 billion for people inside Syria, it said.

International aid agency Oxfam on Monday criticized the international response to the Syria crisis, saying the funds were woefully inadequate.

Last year was the deadliest yet in the conflict, with at least 76,000 people killed out of a total of more than 215,000 since it began in March 2011 with peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations.

Close to 850,000 people have also been wounded.


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