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Donors pledge over $1.5bn to help Syrians

Nations attending Kuwait donor conference have promised over $1.5bn to help Syrian refugees.
Last Modified: 31 Jan 2013 11:09

Donor countries have pledged more than $1.5 billion for Syrians displaced by nearly two years of fighting, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, after a donor conference in Kuwait.

Ban told the final session of the one-day conference that the meeting has "reached its target" of $1 billion of aid for Syria's neighbours hosting refugees and another $500 million to fund humanitarian work for 4 million Syrians afflicted by the civil war inside the country. 

But the funds are only expected to cover the coming months, highlighting the massive burden to cope with needs from Syria's civil war and its spillover in the region.

The pledges also are likely to face close scrutiny on how quickly the money will reach over-stretched aid groups directed by the UN and other agencies.

Officials in Egypt and elsewhere have complained that many generous international offers for help after the Arab Spring upheavals have not yet materialised.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the gathering by calling for an end to the fighting "in the name of humanity," yet noted that the fighting shows no signs of easing and crises such as the refugee exodus to places such as Turkey and Jordan could intensify.

Jordan's economic council said the country was already near the breaking point. The kingdom has spent more than $833 million on aid for refugees, accounting for nearly half the estimated 700,000 people who have fled Syria, and that it was unable to sustain a financial burden that has so far siphoned off about three percent of its GDP.

Some UN officials say the refugee figures could approach one million later this year if the conflict in Syria does not ease.

Speaking at the UN-led gathering in Kuwait, Jordan's King Abdullah II said sheltering and assisting the refugee wave is above the country's "capacity and potential."

"We have reached the end of the line. We have exhausted our resources," he said.

Before the latest donors' conference, Ban described the international humanitarian response to Syria as "very much limited" in comments to the official Kuwaiti News Agency.

But the meeting leveraged more pledges. Kuwait's ruler, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, promised $300 million in a move that was quickly matched by Gulf partners Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are all major backers of Syrian rebel factions.

On Tuesday, the European Union and the US promised a total of nearly $300 million.

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Source:
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