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UN Launches Syria Appeal

December 19, 2013 by  


UN warns that nearly three-quarters of country’s population will need humanitarian support in 2014

By Martin Chulov in Beirut

2013-12-17T225223Z_1888771494_GM1E9CI0J0A01_RTRMADP_3_SYRIA-CRISIS

A general view showing damages after what activists said was an airstrike with explosive barrels from forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in Al-Shaar area in Aleppo December 17, 2013. REUTERS/Molhem Barakat

The UN has launched its biggest ever appeal for humanitarian aid after exhausting funds raised to help Syria this year, and said nearly three-quarters of the country’s population will need help in 2014.
It estimates that close to half of Syria’s population has been displaced, while the World Food Programme says a similar number need “urgent, life-saving food assistance”.

The former British foreign secretary David Miliband, now president of the International Rescue Committee, said large parts of the Syrian population were threatened by starvation.

The UN aims to raise a total of $6.5bn (£4bn) for Syria alone, 63% more than the $4bn target it set during its last appeal in June, which was only 60% funded.

More than 2.3 million refugees have fled to neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and the Kurdish north of Iraq, where many have struggled to find shelter, heating and food.

Lady Amos, the UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, said the ever-deteriorating situation was “one of the biggest crises in modern times”. She said Syrian refugees “think the world has forgotten about them”.

Miliband described the conflict as “the defining humanitarian crisis of this century so far”.

After 33 months of ever-increasing savagery, there is no end in sight to the war, which poses a serious threat to the unitary boundaries of Syria, Lebanon and Iraq and continues to raise sectarian tensions across the Middle East.

Once entirely food and water-sufficient, there have been signs in parts of Syrian society in recent months of malnutrition, particularly among the rural poor who have fled homes in the west and north but have remained internally displaced rather than crossing borders.

The UN estimates that more than 6.3 million internal refugees are scattered throughout the country, a number that is expected to rise further by the middle of next year.

Medical agencies complain of limited access to war-torn areas, blaming regime forces and opposition groups for preventing deliveries of medicines and in some cases hijacking convoys.

More than 125,000 people have been killed in the fighting, which has descended into a series of stalemates in which neither side can make meaningful advances.

Daily death tolls across Syria have persistently hovered near 100 or more for much of the past year, making the war more deadly than any point during the height of the insurgency in neighbouring Iraq.
More than 90 people were killed in Syria’s second city, Aleppo, on Monday morning after Syrian air force helicopters dropped improvised explosives, known as barrel bombs, on three opposition neighbourhoods. Activists reported that 26 of those killed were children.

Opposition groups claimed that more than 20 such bombs were dropped on the east of the city in the early hours, in the most intense blitz for many months. Aleppo and other parts of the north have also been hit regularly by medium-range ballistic missiles, including scuds, fired from nearby Damascus.

However, single-strike death tolls as high as this are rare.

A doctor in the Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood, parts of which were flattened by at least two bombs, said his makeshift clinic had been overrun by parents bringing seriously wounded children to him. “It’s worse than it has ever been here,” he told the Guardian via Skype. “None of the people I saw were fighters. None of them were even adults.”

Maria Calivis, Unicef’s regional director for the Middle East and north Africa, said: “It is absolutely unacceptable for children to be targeted in this manner, whether through the use of indiscriminate weapons resulting in mass casualties or by any other means.”

In recent months communities in parts of Aleppo and its surrounds have increasingly fallen under the sway of jihadist groups, who joined the insurgency to transform the war into an epicentre of al-Qaida-inspired global jihad.

In recent weeks the western-supported Free Syrian Army (FSA) has lost considerable influence due to the rise of the al-Qaida groups and a reconfiguration of many militias in the north who have united under an Islamic banner.

The stated purpose of the new group, the Islamic Front, which is understood to be a force of 45,000, is to sideline the Islamic State of Iraq and Jabhat al-Nusra groups that form the core of al-Qaida’s presence in Syria.

However, last week the nascent organisation raided weapons depots of the Free Syrian Army near the Turkish border, sending the FSA leader Salim Idriss fleeing across the frontier and casting serious doubt on his group’s continued relevance as a fighting force.

One mid-ranking leader of the new group said militia leaders in northern Syria had grown impatient both with the FSA and the exiled group of opposition leaders who had attempted, with little success, to act as its political wing.

“They couldn’t deliver at any point,” he said. “They were Europe and the US’s proxies, but they were never resourced. It was clear that their backers weren’t really their backers at all.”

Throughout the past year humanitarian bodies have used increasingly desperate rhetoric to appeal for aid in Syria.

There is concern that the crisis is yet to resonate with parts of the international community fatigued by more than a decade of death and displacement in the Middle East.

“There is a lack of awareness on the part of many about just how desperate conditions are for Syrians,” said Miliband.

“We can say that more than nine million people are in need there, but … it’s extremely difficult to put human faces on cold numbers.

“We are all working to meet the needs of these most vulnerable, but the numbers are increasing so rapidly now, that current resources just aren’t enough.”

The Guardian

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