Syria crisis: Half of population in need of aid as Britain pledges another £100m

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says ‘fighting has set Syria back decades’

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The Independent Online

The humanitarian crisis affecting Syria means half the country’s population is now in urgent need of aid, the UN secretary Ban Ki-moon has said.

Britain today pledged to provide another £100 million, as the international development secretary Justine Greening attended the UN’s largest ever donor conference, hosted in Kuwait.

It takes the UK’s total donation for Syria up to £600 million – the country’s biggest response ever to a humanitarian crisis.

In total, the UN hopes to raise a record $6.5 billion (£4 million) with its appeal. The US – already the biggest individual donor – today pledged an additional $380 million (£230 million).

Opening the conference, Mr Ban said the fighting “has set Syria back by years, even decades”.

“I count on you to show the Syrian people the world is here to help,” he said.

The conference comes a week before the scheduled start of peace talks between the regime of president Bashar Assad and opposition leaders in Geneva.

Ms Greening said: “The world cannot ignore what is happening to the Syrian people.

“As the situation grows worse, the international community needs to make sure the UN has the resources it needs to help these people.”

It was “hard to exaggerate” the scale of suffering, she said, pointing to recent reports that some of those trapped amid the fighting were now starving to death.

Mr Moon said half the Syrian population is in need of help - 9.3 million within the country's borders and another 2.4 million seeking refuge in increasingly stretched neighbouring countries.

Efforts are under way to secure guarantees of access for aid convoys into some of the worst-affected areas ahead of the talks in Switzerland next week.

The fate of the so-called 'Geneva-II' diplomatic initiative remains unclear however, with an increasingly divided Western-backed opposition still to declare whether it will attend.

Oxfam said the UK and some Middle East countries had so far been “far exceeding their fair share” of funding for Syria and called on others to increase their support.

It singled out Russia - a key ally of the Assad regime - and Japan for “trailing behind” and said there was “no room for donor fatigue at the Kuwait Conference”.

Justin Byworth, chief executive of aid agency World Vision UK, said: “We welcome the UK Government's pledge of £100 million and urge remaining donors to follow this strong example of providing assistance to those who need it most.”

“The scale of the humanitarian crisis for the Syrian people demands an unprecedented international response that mustn't be derailed or overshadowed by fears of the peace talks failing.

“Ultimately, for the suffering to end Syria needs peace and that requires a political solution. In the meantime a whole generation of Syria's children risks losing their chance of a productive future after missing out on an education for so long.”

Additional reporting by PA