x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

UN chief looking for 'generous' response to Syria aid plea in Kuwait

So far, the United Nations has received pledges covering just 18 per cent of the target, unveiled last month as the scale of Syria's humanitarian crisis escalated sharply.

KUWAIT // The United Nations is receiving only limited support for its aid to millions of Syrians, the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said, adding its humanitarian work needed "generous" help from a donor pledging conference today.

The gathering in Kuwait will seek US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) of aid for Syria's neighbours sheltering 700,000 registered refugees, and another $500 million to bankroll humanitarian work for 4 million Syrians inside their country.

So far, the United Nations has received pledges covering just 18 per cent of the target, unveiled last month as the scale of Syria's humanitarian crisis escalated sharply, and which aims to fund operations for the first half of this year.

Mr Ban was quoted by the official Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) as saying what while the need for humanitarian aid was rising "the level of response the UN is receiving is very much limited".

"That is why I am appealing to the whole international community to render their generous support."

Some 4 million Syrians inside the country need food, shelter and other aid and more than 700,000 more have escaped to neighbouring countries since the 22-month-old conflict began, according to the UN.

KUNA reported Mr Ban as saying that on a visit to refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey six weeks ago he heard stories of refugees who had fled Syria "and particularly stories from children, who were very much concerned about their own future".

"That really saddened and humbled me."

Robert Watkins, UN humanitarian coordinator in Lebanon, which has seen the biggest influx of refugees from the Syrian bloodshed, said the United Nations had received promises of major donations at the Kuwait conference.

"We have every reason to be optimistic that there will a very good presence and new pledges that will be coming up at this conference," he said.

The US president, Barack Obama, announced an additional $155m, bringing the total US humanitarian aid to the Syrian crisis to some $365m, the US State Department said.

Mr Watkins said the fact that the conference was being held in Kuwait could encourage other wealthy Gulf states, who have led regional opposition to President Bashar Al Assad, to support the international aid effort.