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KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait, January 15 (UNHC R) - International donors meeting in Kuwait City on Wednesday pledged more than US$2.4 billion to help UNHCR and other aid organizations respond to the massive humanitarian needs generated by the crisis in Syria, said a joint press release issued at the end of the conference.
"These pledges prove that the people devastated by this conflict are not forgotten," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. "It is also sending a strong signal to the neighbouring countries - that we appreciate their generosity, and that they will not be left to shoulder the burden alone."
The press release said that 39 countries pledged to help alleviate the suffering of an estimated 9.3 million women, children and men in need in Syria and 2.3 million refugees who have sought protection in neighbouring countries - a number that is expected to rise if the conflict continues unabated.
"This conflict has not only caused one of the worst humanitarian crises in decades, but it is also the biggest threat to global peace and security the world has seen in a long time," High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres was quoted as saying. "For the international community, responding to the needs we have presented here today is therefore more than a question of generosity. It is, in fact, a matter of enlightened self-interest."
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said Syria was the biggest humanitarian crisis the world faces today. "Every child, every woman, every man affected by this crisis deserves our continued support," added Amos, who is also the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs.
The UN's strategies for Syria and neighbouring countries in 2014 aim at providing life-saving food supplies, water, shelter, medicines, health services, and supporting livelihoods. The appeals request $6.5 billion and the pledging conference hosted by Kuwait is a step towards reaching that target.
Ban Ki-moon thanked all participants, particularly the Emir of Kuwait, for hosting the second such gathering and for his generous contribution of US$500 million. He called on all concerned to do "even more to ensure that Syria and its people receive the support they need as we work for a more peaceful and stable future for the country and region."
Last year, UN appeals for the Syrian crisis amounted to $4.4 billion and were funded at almost 70 per cent at the end of the year. The press release said that with these funds, relief agencies increased delivery of aid from 900,000 to 3.8 million people inside Syria and more than 10 million people were given access to safe drinking water. Partners in the health sector treated 3.6 million people, and nearly 38,000 survivors of gender-based violence received psycho-social support. Thousands of Palestinian refugee families have also been reached with life-saving assistance.
During 2013, the number of registered Syrian refugees rose from 500,000 to more than 2.3 million. As refugees fled Syria at a rate of 127,000 people a month, the number of formal refugee camps doubled. More than 196,000 tents and 809,000 plastic tarpaulins - equivalent to more than 21 square kilometres of shelter material - were distributed to Syrians in camps and informal sites.