Syria crisis prompts record UN appeal

The Syrian plea comprised half of the UN’s wider funding plan of $12.9bn, which aims to deliver aid to 52 million people in 17 countries

The United Nations has appealed for a record $6.5bn for Syria and its neighbours after warning almost three-quarters of its 22.4 million population may need help in 2014, as the country’s bloody conflict enters its fourth year.

The Syrian plea comprised half of the UN’s wider funding plan of $12.9bn, which aims to deliver aid to 52 million people in 17 countries, and is the agency’s largest ever appeal for a single crisis.

“We’re facing a terrifying situation here where, by the end of 2014, substantially more of the population of Syria could be displaced or in need of humanitarian help than not,” said António Guterres, UN high commissioner for refugees. “This goes beyond anything we have seen in many, many years, and makes the need for a political solution all the much greater.”

The UN estimates that some 6.3 million people have been displaced within Syria since the start of the conflict in 2011. More than 2.3 million are thought to have fled the country, generating one of the largest exoduses in recent history. Many have escaped across borders to nearby Arab states such as Jordan and Lebanon, stretching their social and civil systems to breaking point.

Circumstances have worsened further with the onset of harsh winter storms. The flood of refugees has swelled Lebanon’s population close to the size it was expected to reach by the year 2050, at enormous cost to its economy.

“Syria’s neighbours have been saving lives and providing protection, but… few refugee influxes have ever generated such a profound impact on their host countries,” Guterres said.

The UN is seeking $2.3bn to help 9.3 million people in Syria next year, up from $1.4bn from its 2013 appeal. The call for $4.4bn in June, at the time the agency’s largest appeal, is to date only 62 per cent funded. A further $4.2bn is needed to aid refugees and host communities in five neighbouring countries: Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq.

UN agencies aim to provide shelter, food aid, water, vital healthcare and other essential support.

“It remains of lifesaving importance that the international humanitarian response is supported,” Guterres said. “Massive international solidarity is crucial, not only to support suffering Syrians, but also for the countries that have so generously taken in refugees.”