Last updated: 7 September, 2012

UN doubles aid to people displaced inside Syria

The United Nations on Friday almost doubled its humanitarian appeal for Syria to $347 million as the worsening conflict sends growing numbers fleeing the country.

The United Nations now estimates that more than 2.5 million people need food and medical help in the country stricken by 18 months of strife as President Bashar al-Assad battles opposition forces, officials said.

The new appeal was launched at a Syria Humanitarian Forum in Geneva. “We are in a crisis mode, we are in an emergency mode,” said John Ging, chairman of the forum that groups different UN agencies’ aid efforts.

“We have authorised our operations to the maximum with the funds available. We urgently need additional resources to be able to cope with the situation.”

The United Nations had previously sought $180 million for emergency operations inside Syria. UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said this has been increased to $347 million.

He said UN agencies wanted to launch 57 projects in all of Syria’s 14 provinces.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon has stepped up pleas for more contributions in recent weeks. The old appeal was only half funded. The United Nations has also asked for $193 million to help an estimated 250,000 refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. This is also severely underfunded.

“There are too few donors,” Ging stressed at the Syria meeting. “The base of donors has to be broadened. Now there is just a handful of countries.”

More than 1.2 million, over half of them children, have become internally displaced in Syria, according to UN figures. The country faces a growing shortage of medicines as production has come to a near standstill and many areas have been hit by water shortages, UN officials said.

The United States said Wednesday it would boost Syria aid to over $100 million.

Of this, $14.3 million would be food aid inside Syria and $6.7 million would help Syrian refugees abroad, said the US State Department.

Washington is already providing $48.5 million to the UN World Food Programme, $23.1 million to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and funding to non-government groups, UNICEF and the Red Cross.

The European Union’s executive commission has meanwhile release another 50 million euros in humanitarian aid to help Syrian civilians.

The new aid, which needs European Parliament approval, brings the total aid available from the EU to 200 million euros, about half of all international help offered so far.