UN asks for $6.5B in Syria aid;
last year's request hasn't been met

World body's appeal is highest ever for a single crisis

Syrian refugees wait to register upon their arrival in the strategic Lebanese border district town of Arsal on Nov. 18, 2013, after fleeing the fighting in neighboring Syria.
AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations said Monday that it needs $6.5 billion to help 16 million people in Syria and its neighboring countries, even as last year’s ask of $1.4 billion for Syria alone remains unmet.

The number, announced by emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos at a meeting of donor countries in Geneva, is the highest-ever for an individual conflict.

Amos said that the overall number the U.N. is requesting, $12.9 billion for countries including Haiti, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is also the highest the U.N. has ever asked for overall.

"This is the largest amount we have ever had to request at the start of the year," Amos told a news conference, referring to the worldwide appeal.

Click here for Al Jazeera's coverage of Syria's refugee crisis

In 2012, the U.N. appealed for $1.4 billion for aid in Syria alone, which to date is only 62 percent funded, according to U.N. figures. This year, the organization requested $2.3 billion in aid for Syrians living in their home country.

For five neighboring countries — Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey — the world body is seeking $4.2 billion to assist up to 4.1 million Syrian refugees and host communities who will be given food aid including cash or vouchers.

U.N. agencies aim to provide food, clean drinking water, shelter, education, health services and polio vaccines to Syrians inside and outside the devastated country.

The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) aims to feed 4.25 million people in Syria, where it reached only 3.4 million in November.

"This is the worst humanitarian crisis that we have seen in decades, with every day more vulnerable Syrians pushed into hunger," Muhannad Hadi, WFP's Syria Emergency Coordinator, said.

No end in sight

Syrian refugees languish as winter bears down on the Middle East.
Ahmad Shalha/Reuters

There is no end in sight for the nearly three-year conflict, which began as peaceful protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and were met with crackdown by the government, rapidly descending into a brutal civil war.

More than 120,000 people are estimated to have been killed.

Reuters on Monday reported that it has been months since the U.N. and other agencies have delivered food or medical care to rebel-held areas, prevented by a government accused of using hunger as a weapon as a weapon against its own people.

"In government-controlled parts of Syria, what, where and to whom to distribute aid, and even staff recruitment, have to be negotiated and are sometimes dictated," said Ben Parker, who ran the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Syria for a year until last February.

"According to the Syrian government's official position, humanitarian agencies and supplies are allowed to go anywhere, even across any frontline," he wrote last month in the journal Humanitarian Exchange. "But every action requires time-consuming permissions, which effectively provide multiple veto opportunities." Fighting and rebel groups are also obstacles.

The U.N. Security Council remains deadlocked over what to do about Syria, with permanent member Russia allied with the Assad regime. Both Russia and China have vetoed three resolutions threatening sanctions on the regime since the contact began.

On Oct. 25, the Associated Press reported that Amos told the council its recent non-binding appeal for humanitarian access in Syria had made little difference, and implored the members to exert more pressure on the warring parties to allow the delivery of aid to millions of people trapped in the conflict.

An Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack raised the stakes for world powers to pressure the regime to alleviate the Syrian peoples' suffering. As Obama pressed for U.S. air strikes on Syria, the Assad government struck a deal with the U.S. and Russia to dispose of its chemical weapons arsenal. U.N. weapons experts did not identify who carried out the chemical weapons attack. But as the chemical weapons deal has progressed, the brutal violence in Syria has continued, and Assad's forces have made gains.

U.N. weapons experts did not identify who carried out the chemical weapons attack.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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