UN launches record appeal for victims of Syrian crisis

The UN has launched the largest emergency appeal in its history - $5bn - as it warned that half the Syrian population will need humanitarian aid by the end of 2013.

The civil war in Syria has led to the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world, leaving 80,000 people dead and 6.8 million in need of urgent help. This includes 4.25 million Syrians displaced within the country and some 1.6 million refugees who have fled across borders to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey to escape the conflict. The joint statement by UN agencies said an estimated 10 million Syrians could need aid by the end of the year. “These are massive figures, but those figures mask a human tragedy,” said UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, announcing the call for $5bn before the end of the year. “Ordinary women, men and children are bearing the brunt of this crisis. Lives are being destroyed. Livelihoods are gone forever. It’s estimated that two years of conflict have set back Syria’s development by two decades.” The appeal comprises $2.9bn for refugees and $1.4bn for humanitarian aid. Lebanon and Jordan, the biggest recipients of Syrian refugees, are seeking $450m and $380m. Based on current flows, the UN forecast that the Syrian refugee population could double to 3.5 million over the coming seven months. “The funds we are appealing for are a matter of survival for suffering Syrians and they are existential for the neighbouring countries hosting refugees,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres. More than half of those fleeing Syria are children, many of who show signs of malnutrition, he said. More than $1bn of the appeal funds would be directed to the World Food Programme, which currently distributes food to more than 3 million people affected by the crisis. The agency hopes to reach a total of 7 million Syrians by late 2013. “Syrian families, particularly children, whether inside the country or outside, are devastated by the magnitude of this crisis,” said WFP executive director Ertharin Cousin. “Proud people have had their lives and livelihoods shattered by this conflict.” The biggest donors to the UN aid effort include the European Commission, which pledged a further €400m last week, followed by Kuwait, the US, Britain and Japan. Aid agencies have warned that the ongoing bloodshed is making it increasingly difficult to deliver food and supplies within Syria, and have called for a political solution to the crisis. “This is a not a crisis that will be solved through humanitarian efforts,” Amos said.