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United Nations

UN seeks almost $13 billion for 2014 humanitarian aid, half for Syria conflict

The United Nations has appealed for almost $13 billion to fund humanitarian aid missions in 2014. Around half of it was needed to assist victims of the Syrian civil war, especially refugees who have fled the fighting.

UN issues largest-ever appeal for Syria

The UN on Monday called for $12.9 billion (9.36 billion euros) to fund next year's humanitarian aid missions, saying in Geneva that $6.5 billion would be required just to assist Syria and neighboring countries now hosting refugees from the 33-month conflict.

In total, the annual aid appeal sought to assist an estimated 52 million people in 17 countries, equating to an average UN target of roughly $250 per person.

"This is the largest amount we have ever had to request at the start of the year," said Valerie Amos, the UN's emergency relief coordinator, at a meeting of donor countries in Geneva. "The complexity and scale of what we are doing is rising all the time."

The UN's 2013 appeal for aid was revised upwards to $13.6 billion, from $8.5 billion at the start of the year, also as a result of the conflict in Syria. Only about 60 percent of the final figure was ultimately raised. The UN said it considered this year's targeted total as formidable, "but attainable."

Refugees in focus

Of the desired Syrian tally, $4.2 billion would be used in five neighboring countries - Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey - that are now home to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.

"There is a tragedy in the plight of Syrian refuges, but let us not forget that they would have no place to go without the generosity of the neighboring countries," said Antonio Guterres, head of the UN refugee agency and a former Portuguese prime minister, also urging EU countries to do more.

"There is something fundamentally wrong when a Syrian family with women and children that has fled dramatic conflict in Syria needs to take a boat with high risk of drowning to get to Europe," Gutteres said, days after Amnesty International was similarly critical of EU efforts to house Syrian refugees.

Almost three years of conflict in Syria have claimed more than 100,000 lives and displaced millions of people, either across borders or within Syria itself.

"There are parts of the country where for 22-23 hours a day people aren't getting electricity. Fuel is scarce," said the UN's Amos, who visited ministers in Damascus on Saturday. "Even if the violence were to stop tomorrow we would have to maintain help on the humanitarian front."

Sudans, Somalia, typhoon-hit Philippines

A combined sum of just over $2 billion was sought for South Sudan and Sudan, while the UN earmarked more than $750 million each for Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Philippines in the wake of typhoon Haiyan. Yemen, Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Haiti and the Central African Republic were also part of the 17-country plan for 2014 humanitarian assistance.

msh/ph (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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