GENEVA: The United Nations appealed on Monday for a record $16.4 billion (13.4 billion euros) to provide aid to nearly 60 million people worldwide next year, with almost half the amount aimed at helping victims of Syria’s drawn-out conflict.
“We are facing needs at unprecedented levels,” said United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos.
Noting that 2014 has been marked by a sharp rise in the number of people affected by violent conflicts, she said 102 million people worldwide were currently in need of aid.
The global appeal from UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations aims to gather funds to help at least 57.5 million of the 78 million people expected to require need across 22 countries in 2015.
Monday’s appeal did not, however, include the needs in Djibouti and the nine countries in Africa’s Sahel region, including Nigeria and Mali, which will be addressed in a separate appeal in February.
‘Not business as usual’
A full $7.2 billion of the amount requested for 2015 will be aimed at helping an estimated 18.2 million people victimized by Syria’s bloody civil war, which erupted in March 2011.
That amount should enable aid to some 12.2 million people inside the country, including 7.6 million displaced people, and to more than three million Syrians living as refugees in neighboring countries.
It would also provide assistance to three million people in the overwhelmed communities hosting the refugees.
Syria’s neighbor Iraq also figured high on the list of countries requiring UN assistance next year.
Around 2.1 million Iraqis have been displaced since January, mostly since the Islamic State group began seizing large swaths of the country in June, declaring an Islamic “caliphate” across much of Iraq and Syria.
The UN is appealing for $1.2 billion to help most of an estimated 5.2 million people in need throughout Iraq, including 3.6 million living in areas controlled by the IS group and its affiliates.
The crises in Central African Republic and South Sudan are also considered among the most serious, while the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has left more than 4,300 dead and driven around one million people from their homes, also figures on the list.
Crises in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, the occupied Palestinian territories, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen will also require significant funds.
“This is not business as usual in the humanitarian world,” said Antonio Guterres, head of the UN refugee agency, adding that needs are growing “exponentially.”
Children pay a high price
The number of people forced to flee their homes worldwide due to conflicts had soared from 14,000 a day in 2011 to 32,000 each day last year, Guterres said.
And the number for 2014 looks set to be far higher.
As crises multiply, children are paying a particularly high price, the UN children’s agency said, pointing out some 230 million children are currently living in areas affected by armed conflict.
“Children have been killed while studying in the classroom and while sleeping in their beds, they have been orphaned, kidnapped, tortured, recruited, raped and even sold as slaves,” United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF chief Anthony Lake said.
“Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such unspeakable brutality,” he added.
Monday’s appeal for 2015 dwarfs the $12.9 billion requested last December in the initial appeal for 2014, although that need estimate has since swelled $17.9 billion.
But as needs soar, donor countries are struggling ever more to fund a multitude of often chronically underfunded aid programs.
Donors have only managed to provide 52 percent of the amount needed this year, and full funding of the 2015 appeal is unlikely.
“Each year we ask our donors for more and more funding for our appeals, but as needs rise the resource gap is widening,” Amos said.
The impact can be devastating.
An initial funding shortfall of $64 million for instance forced the UN’s World Food Program to announce last week it was suspending food aid to 1.7 million Syrians.
An emergency appeal to the public had solved that crisis, Amos said on Monday, pointing out that around $80 million had been raised in a matter of days.
“That means that we are fine for December but not that we are fine for the months that follow,” she said, warning the agency’s desperately needed food aid risked “lurching from month to month.”