UN to call for $10 billion aid for Syrians at virtual donor meeting
The United Nations is looking to raise almost $10 billion this year to assist war-affected people, inside and outside Syria, in a key conference in Brussels which will be held via a video link on Tuesday.
The UN appeals to raise $3.8 billion for aid inside Syria and $6.04 billion for countries hosting Syrian refugees.
"The needs have never been greater," said Corinne Fleischer at the World Food Programme (WFP), a UN agency.
More than nine years into the conflict, the fighting has receded, but the humanitarian emergency remains acute.
"A staggering 9.3 million Syrians are now going to sleep hungry and more than another two million are at risk of a similar fate," a joint statement by international NGOs, including Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam, CARE and Mercy Corps, said on Monday.
"Almost a decade of war has thrown Syrians into a spiral of despair and destitution that keeps worsening every year. International assistance is needed now more than ever," the aid groups said.
The conflict has killed more than 500,000 people and sparked a refugee exodus that has destabilised Syria's neighbours and hit Europe. Now economic chaos and the spread of the coronavirus are weighing even more heavily on its long-suffering people.
"The Covid-19 crisis has had an immediate and devastating impact on livelihoods of millions of Syrian refugees and their hosts in the region," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement.
Syria's struggling economy has sharply deteriorated recently.
Prices have soared and the national currency, the Syrian pound, has collapsed, partly due to fears that international sanctions would further isolate the country.
Farmers desperately need funds to prepare next year's crops.
Tuesday's meeting will be the eighth annual Syria pledging conference and the fourth hosted by the EU, which estimates that it has donated around 20 billion euros ($23 billion) to Syria and the region over the years.
Around 60 countries, including the US, key UN agencies and others involved in the conflict are expected to take part.
Beyond its economic impact, the coronavirus has also forced the conference to be held online.
The event is usually an important opportunity for officials to meet on the side-lines to discuss thorny issues and resolve problems, but officials worry that the virtual format might reduce the conference to a number-crunching exercise.
Agencies contributed to this report.
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