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U.N. seeks $1.5 billion to help Syria residents and refugees

December 19, 2012|By Emily Alpert
  • A Syrian girl looks outside her tent at a displacement camp in Azaz, Syria.
A Syrian girl looks outside her tent at a displacement camp in Azaz, Syria. (Manu Brabo / Associated…)

The United Nations and its partners are seeking donations of more than $1.5 billion to aid Syrians inside and outside the battered country over the next six months as the chill of winter descends, the biggest appeal it has ever launched for such a crisis.

The U.N. has sought more aid for Syria as the fighting between government and opposition forces has continued. Four million people are estimated to need help in Syria, four times as many as in March. At least 525,000 Syrians have registered or are being assisted as refugees, seven times as many as in May, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

Ramping up pleas for aid so often is “highly unusual,” Radhouane Nouicer, U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, said in a statement Wednesday. “The magnitude of this crisis is indisputable.”

The bulk of the money -- $1 billion – is being sought to aid Syrian refugees, who are continuing to pour out of the country at a rate of 2,000 to 3,000 people daily. About half of the Syrians now huddled in refugee camps are children, UNICEF has estimated.

By the middle of next year, the number of refugees is expected to soar higher, leaving a million people in need. Even after they have fled the violence of Syria, refugees suffer new hardships as they try to survive with scarce resources and scant jobs.

“Unless these funds come quickly, we will not be able to fully respond to the lifesaving needs of civilians who flee Syria every hour of the day, many in a truly desperate condition,” said Panos Moumtzis, regional coordinator for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The U.N. is also pressing donors for an additional $519 million to help millions of people still in Syria, who need food, water, medical attention, shelter and a host of other basic necessities. The violence raging in the country has left it with "nearly no more safe areas," Nouicer said.

Tens of thousands of people have lost their lives in the enduring conflict between rebels and government forces loyal to President Bashar Assad. Most of them were civilians. As of early evening in Syria, about 90 people had been killed Wednesday, many slain by shelling and a car bombing in Aleppo, according to the Local Coordination Committees opposition activist network.

U.N. appeals to help the needy in Syria have fallen short of their fundraising goals. The U.N. and partnering agencies received only 70% of the $487 million they had sought through an earlier version of its refugee response plan, it said Wednesday.

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