Syria donors meet in Kuwait to raise $1.5 bn in aid

Report
from Agence France-Presse
Published on 28 Jan 2013

01/28/2013 11:52 GMT

By Omar Hasan

KUWAIT CITY, Jan 28, 2013 (AFP) - Kuwait on Wednesday hosts a UN-sponsored global donors conference aimed at raising $1.5 billion in aid for around five million Syrians facing hardships from their country's 22-month deadly conflict.

The International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria comes as the United Nations prepares to undertake a massive humanitarian effort to provide basic needs for four million Syrians inside the country and more than 650,000 refugees in neighbouring countries.

The conference, to be attended by UN chief Ban Ki-moon, will be opened by Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, and local media reports say the oil-rich Gulf state will offer a "generous donation" put by some unofficial reports at $500 million.

"The UN hopes that the network of donor countries and parties will be expanded to meet the needs of more than four million Syrians in dire need of humanitarian aid," Nejib Friji, UN media coordinator for the conference, told AFP.

He said that the number of countries attending the conference was above expectations.

Kuwaiti newspapers said representatives from around 60 countries are to attend the one-day conference including Russia and Iran, the two main backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

"The humanitarian situation in Syria is already catastrophic and is getting worse. Four million people face unrelenting violence and human rights violations," UN humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos said in a message ahead of the conference.

"More than 650,000 people have fled the country. Ordinary people are paying a heavy price for the failure of the international community to agree steps to resolve the political crisis," she said.

Amos said the United Nations was feeding 1.5 million people and providing basic relief supplies for some 400,000 people, "but it is just not enough."

Ban himself said last month that half of civilians affected by the conflict were children.

Last week, John Ging, a top UN official, led a team of senior UN emergency operations officials to assess the on-ground situation in Syria.

"Our mission is clear: There is a lot to do, it is urgent and we want to better understand how we can meet the expectations of the people to deliver humanitarian assistance quickly and effectively," Ging said.

He said the main problem facing the programme is a steep shortfall in the budget.

"Our appeal was only 50 percent funded, so we were able to deliver 50 percent of what we had appealed for," he said.

His team travelled to Daraa in the south, Homs in central Syria, and Talbiyeh, a nearby town besieged by the army for months. The trip was facilitated by the two warring sides.

On Tuesday, 60 charity and humanitarian organisations will also hold a meeting for the same purpose, said the chairman of Kuwait's International Islamic Charity Foundation, Abdullah al-Maatouq.

The United Nations says that more than 60,000 people have been killed in Syria's uprising, which broke out in March 2011 with peaceful protests but morphed into an armed insurgency after a harsh regime crackdown.

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