Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah opens the Third International Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait today, chaired by United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, AFP reports.The UN is hoping to raise $8.4 billion (7.7 billion euros) from the 78 countries attending the one-conference this year. "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 against the backdrop of continuing escalation of conflict in Syria, with many international aid agencies concerned that funding shortfalls will disrupt operations. Prior to the UN conference, some 40 international non-governmental organisations committed $506 million, significantly topping contributions from two prior NGO conferences.
Valerie Amos, UN humanitarian affairs chief, told AFP that the donor response at Tuesday's conference "needs to be comprehensive". She highlighted the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria, affecting children in particular.
Two prior UN conferences held Kuwait generated pledges of $1.5 billion and $2.4 billion, but the UN criticized countries for not honouring their commitments. International aid agency Oxfam on Monday criticized the international community's response to the Syria's suffering, saying the funds were woefully insufficient.
Last week, the UN Secretary-General cited a report that counted 7.6 million people displaced withing Syria, while another 3.9 million have fled neighbouring countries. "Every day brings more death, displacement and destruction," the UN report said. 2014 marked the deadliest year so far in the conflict, with some 76,000 people killed out of a total of more than 215,000 since peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations ignited the conflict in March 2011. Close to 850,000 people have also been wounded.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs noted that almost half of all Syrians have been forced to flee, as the war enters its fifth year. Of the $8.4 billion requested from donors, $5.5 billion would be allocated for refugees in neighbouring nations and $2.9 billion needed for those inside Syria, it said.
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