Syria aid pledges top $2 billion as donors meet
KUWAIT CITY - Agence France-Presse
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah, UN-Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, UN Special humanitarian envoy for the Gulf, Chairman of the International Islamic charitable organisation (IICO) and advisor in the Diwan Al-amiri, Abdullah Matouq, and UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Ann Amos, attend a meeting during the Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria on March 30, 2015 in Kuwait City. AFP PhotoThe European Union and other donors pledged more than $2 billion on Tuesday to help alleviate war-torn Syria's humanitarian crisis, which Kuwait's emir called the worst in "modern history".
Stressing the gravity of the situation, UN chief Ban Ki-moon told participants at the meeting in Kuwait to help raise $8.4 billion in aid this year for Syria, where four out of five people were living in "poverty, misery and deprivation".
The EU pledged nearly 1.1 billion euros ($1.2 billion), double the amount the bloc promised last year, while Kuwait opened the conference with a promise of $500 million.
The United States pledged $507 million and non-governmental organisations committed more than $500 million.
Other major contributions came from Britain with $150 million, United Arab Emirates with $100 million and Norway which promised $93 million.
Jordan and Lebanon, which together host close to 2.5 million refugees, were represented by their premiers who appealed for international aid to help their economies cope with the tragedy.
Qatar's Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Attiyah proposed to set up a special fund for the education of Syrian children.
More pledges are expected at the one-day conference attended by 78 countries at ministerial levels.
In Brussels, EU aid commissioner Christos Stylianides said in a statement that "the needs are overwhelming, and an extraordinary effort is needed by the wider donor community to mobilise significant funding".
The money pledged by the bloc consists of 500 million euros in "humanitarian aid, early recovery and longer-term stabilisation assistance" from the European Commission, with the balance coming in pledges from the bloc's 28 countries, the EU said.
Ban warned that "the Syrian people are victims of the worst humanitarian crisis of our time."
"Four out of five Syrians live in poverty, misery and deprivation. The country has lost nearly four decades of human development," Ban said.
Kuwait has hosted a donor conference for Syrians in each of the past two years, generating several billion dollars worth of pledges.
Tuesday's conference, attended by representatives from nearly 80 countries, was preceded by a meeting of charitable organisations, which pledged a total of $506 million.
"Failing to meet the required funds risks resulting in a horrifying and dangerous humanitarian catastrophe," Abdullah al-Maatuq, UN special envoy for humanitarian affairs, said as he opened that meeting.
UN humanitarian affairs chief Valerie Amos said the donor response at Tuesday's conference "needs to be comprehensive".
The UN has complained that not all previous pledges for aid had translated into funding.
Amos said the situation had deteriorated in Syria, with no reduction in violence and with children particularly badly affected.
Ban said in a report last week that the war had forced around 7.6 million people to leave their homes in Syria, while another 3.9 million have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.
"Every day brings more death, displacement and destruction," the report said.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres warned of an "unsustainable" situation.
"After four years of conflict, we are at a tipping point. It is clear that the world's response to the crisis in Syria cannot be business as usual. The situation is becoming unsustainable," he said.
Almost half of all Syrians have been forced to flee their homes, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
Of the $8.4 billion needed this year, $5.5 billion is for refugees and $2.9 billion for people still inside Syria.
On Monday, international aid agency Oxfam criticised the international response to the Syrian crisis, saying money pledged was woefully inadequate.
Last year was the deadliest yet in the conflict, with at least 76,000 people killed out of a total of more than 215,000 since it began in March 2011 with peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations.