x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

UN officials tour Gulf to seek aid for Syrians

Officials expected to meet with UAE's foreign minister to ask for more aid.

United Nations representatives are seeking support from the UAE government to help Syrian refugees forced to flee the violence in their country, before the onset of winter.

UN officials yesterday warned there were no safe places left in Syria and its agencies were in a "race against time" to save lives and provide people with basic necessities.

"Many children are living in total trauma in Syria," said Radhouane Nouicer, UN regional humanitarian coordinator in Syria. "There is no humanitarian solution, only a political solution is needed.

"With winter approaching, we are worried about the conditions of the displaced seeking refuge."

Mr Nouicer and Panos Moumtzis, regional refugee coordinator at the UN High Commission for Refugees, are in the UAE as part of a tour of Arabian Gulf states to appeal for financial and material aid for Syrians.

They will visit Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in the next few days.

Their visit comes a day after the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, said Arab states and the international community had been unable to deliver a "tangible solution" to stop the bloodshed in Syria.

The UN representatives are expected to meet Sheikh Abdullah while in the UAE.

Mr Moumtzis said Arabian Gulf governments were very generous but a more united effort was required.

"International solidarity is needed," he said. "We want to find ways to work closer with the Gulf governments for a common objective.

"We would like them to sit with us to avoid duplication and ensure efficiency."

Mr Moumtzis said government NGOs, including those in the UAE, could work with those in countries neighbouring Syria to deliver tents, food, blankets and other winter materials.

The latest UN figures show the conflict has resulted in more than 1.2 million internally displaced people and 333,000 refugees.

UN agencies last month launched a revised humanitarian appeal, the third in nine months and for almost double the amount it had sought earlier.

Mr Moumtzis said the appeal for US$347 million (Dh1.27 billion) was "rather unusual", but reflected the speed at which the crisis was unfolding.