Charities pledge $400m Syria aid

January 15, 2014 - 11:29:05 am

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits Syrian refugees at Erbil, northern Iraq, yesterday. The visit comes a day ahead of an international pledging conference in Kuwait organised by the United Nations, where the UN is seeking about $6.5bn to help displaced Syrians.

KUWAIT: Non-governmental organisations have promised to donate a combined $400m for humanitarian aid for Syria ahead of an international donor conference to be held in Kuwait, the Gulf state’s official news agency Kuna said yesterday.

The donor conference, which opens today, aims to help the United Nations raise $6.5bn for Syria and neighbouring countries in 2014, the biggest humanitarian aid appeal in the organisation’s history. A similar donor conference held in Kuwait last year pledged $1.5bn, mainly from Gulf Arab governments, to help provide food, drinking water, medicine and shelter for Syrians inside and outside of the country.

Syria’s civil war has killed more than 100,000 people and forced some 2 million to flee abroad, according to the United Nations. Another 4 million have been displaced inside the country.

Overall, only 70 percent of crisis funding pledged for Syria in 2013 has been received by the U.N, according to the body’s Financial Tracking Service (FTS).

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who will chair the Kuwait conference, has expressed regret that not all of the money has been received, Kuna said last week. The United Nations is experiencing “serious funding gaps,” he told Kuna s in an interview about the nearly three-year conflict which has inflamed regional tensions. “There seems to be some fatigue among donor countries because of this continuing violence,” he said.

EU pledges more

The European Union offered an extra ¤165m of aid to victims of Syria’s unrelenting civil war yesterday while urging world powers to do more to ensure help reaches those trapped in the fighting.

“We see the humanitarian situation going from bad to worse, we have seen no improvement,” EU Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said before departing for the donor conference in Kuwait City, following the UN’s largest appeal ever for a single emergency. “This is most tragic for 225,000 people in besieged areas where there is no way for help to get in, or for people to get out,” she said in an interview. “Access remains a major hurdle.”

To get aid where it is needed, the EU’s executive has been in contact both with the regime of President Bashar Al Assad and with opposition fighters, as well as with interested parties Russia, Iran and the Gulf states.

She said it even recently relaxed its sanctions regime against the Assad government to enable Damascus if necessary to buy food, medicine or even cooking oil. Inside Syria, “the hardliners, the Jihadists, they are those who are most determined to prevent access” to civilians in need, by attacking and abducting humanitarian workers and preventing the vaccination of children against polio, Georgieva said.Agencies