KUWAIT CITY: Charity organizations pledged $400 million Tuesday to help alleviate the humanitarian plight of Syrians affected by their country’s civil war, participants at a meeting of charitable NGOs said.
Kuwait’s International Islamic Charitable Organization said Kuwaiti charities pledged $142 million, while dozens of NGOs attending the meeting promised the rest.
The funds will target people inside and outside Syria, where more than 130,000 people have been killed and millions displaced during the 34-month conflict, IICO said in a statement cited by the KUNA news agency.
At a similar meeting last year, NGOs pledged $182 million for Syrian refugees.
Tuesday’s gathering came a day before the Second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, which aims to raise $6.5 billion for more than 13.4 million Syrians facing extreme conditions inside the country and in neighboring nations.
The United Nations has described the appeal as the largest ever in its history for a single humanitarian emergency.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will chair the one-day ministerial-level meeting, which will be opened by Kuwait’s emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah. Around 69 countries and 24 international organizations are attending.
Ban received a close-up view of the humanitarian situation a day ahead of the conference when he visited the Kawrgosik camp for Syrian refugees near Irbil in Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region.
Ban expressed his deep sadness over the suffering and the hard conditions the refugees were living in.
“I am particularly saddened to see so many young children and women and vulnerable groups who suffer from this man-made tragedy,” he added.
The U.N. has said it needs $2.3 billion to support 9.3 million people inside Syria and $4.2 billion for refugees, expected to nearly double to 4.1 million by year’s end.
Ahead of his arrival in Kuwait, Ban warned that the humanitarian situation in Syria had been deteriorating and called on donor nations to help meet the target.
At the first donors conference in Kuwait last January, participating nations pledged $1.5 billion, 75 percent of which was delivered, according to a Kuwaiti official.
Aid agencies say 10.5 million Syrians are food insecure or severely food insecure, over a million children under 5 suffer from acute or severe malnutrition, about half the population has no access to adequate water sources or sanitation facilities and 8.6 million have insufficient access to health care.
Lebanon is currently hosting the largest number of refugees with 905,000, followed by Jordan with 575,000, Turkey 562,000, Iraq 216,000 and Egypt 145,000.
By the end of 2014, these numbers are estimated to rise to 1.65 million in Lebanon, 800,000 in Jordan, 1 million in Turkey, 400,000 in Iraq and 250,000 in Egypt.
Separately, the U.N.’s World Food Program delivered rations to a record 3.8 million people in Syria in December, but civilians in eastern provinces and besieged towns near the capital remain out of reach, a spokeswoman said.
The agency voiced concern at reports of malnutrition in besieged areas, especially of children caught up in the nearly 3-year-old civil war, and called for greater access.
“WFP is gravely concerned about people who live in areas under siege. Their nutrition situation is expected to have deteriorated significantly,” spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told a news briefing in Geneva.
The organization has tried several times over the last few months to reach besieged areas in and around Damascus – especially Moadamieh, Neshabia, Douma, Harasta and Yarmouk – without success.
“We are quite concerned about malnutrition of children, especially in those besieged areas,” she said.
Fighting in Raqqa and Deir al-Zor also prevented aid convoys from reaching people in those eastern provinces for the second consecutive month, Byrs said.
The United Nations agency, which distributed food supplies to 3.4 million people in November, aims to reach 4.25 million in January, despite winter weather.
In 2013, it brought 100,000 cubic meters of food into Syria. “That is equivalent to 58 jumbo planes,” Byrs said.