London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The UN launched the largest humanitarian appeal in history yesterday in Geneva, seeking USD 5 billion in aid for the people of the civil-war-torn Syria.
According to UN figures, nearly half of the population—around 10 million people altogether—will require help by the end of this year, including 4 million children.
The UN estimates that 1.5 million Syrians have fled the country since the uprising started in March 2011, with approximately 4 million people being internally displaced.
The office of the UN Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had set an aid target of USD 1 billion in December, but it was urged to review the amount as the numbers of Syrian refugees fleeing to neighboring countries, such as Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, in addition to the worsening humanitarian situation in Syria, have exceeded all expectations.
At a press conference in Geneva’s Palais des Nations yesterday, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said: “Syria as a civilization is unraveling, with as many as half of its citizens in need of urgent help as a result of this savage conflict.”
“The funds we are appealing for are a matter of survival for suffering Syrians, and they are essential for neighbouring countries that are hosting refugees,” he added.
This came after the UNHCR had predicted that the number of refugees fleeing Syria might rise to 3.45 million by the end of this year.
According to the UNHCR website, the USD 5 billion aid will be used to “feed 4 million Syrians and 420,000 Palestinian refugees, immunize 1.7 million children, and provide nearly 7 million people with health care and 10 million with safe drinking water.”
Lebanon and Jordan, which host approximately 500,000 Syrian refugees each, have asked international donors for USD 450 million and USD 380 million, respectively.
In January, Kuwait held an international donor conference for Syrian refugees, raising USD 300 million.
Earlier this week, the EU announced it would contribute USD 530 million for Syrian refuges by the end of 2013.
This new appeal marks a significant rise from the USD 3 billion the UN had predicted it would need to help Syrians, slightly less than half of which (USD 1.4 million) has been pledged.
The humanitarian situation in Syria continued to deteriorate, with the conflict between Bashar Al-Assad’s forces and the rebels entering its third year urging civilians in the embattled areas around Homs, Aleppo and Idlib to flee to neighboring countries for shelter.
This appeal came only a few days after forces loyal to Assad backed by Hezbollah took control of the strategic town of Qusayer after a two-week offensive against the rebels in the town.
On Friday, Russia, the most influential ally of Assad, offered to send troops to fill the vacuum left after Austria announced it would pull its 380 soldiers out of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) operating in the Golan Heights to monitor the ceasefire between Syria and Israel.
The UN Peacekeeping Department has turned down the Russian offer.