GENEVA – A U.N. plan to provide $836 million in emergency aid to Syrians battered by their nation's civil war ran into funding problems Friday despite an additional U.S. donation of $34 million.
The wide gap — about 50 percent — between refugee needs and donor pledges added to the gloom at a U.N. gathering Friday in Geneva of hundreds of aid officials and diplomats. Before the meeting, the U.N. said it had collected just 35 percent of the $488 million it says is needed for refugees and only 45 percent of the $348 million it says is needed for general humanitarian aid.
That and the lack of access for aid groups was making the goal of reaching the 2.5 million Syrians who need help and the more than 400,000 refugees who have fled the country seem impossible.
"There is more violence, there is more human suffering, there is more displacement and more losses, both physical and economic ... civilian Syrians continue to pay the price of this conflict," said Radhouane Nouicer, the U.N.'s regional aid coordinator for Syria.
Nouicer told reporters at the end of the closed-door meeting that the suffering among Syrians will just keep growing — and reaching them will continue to be difficult — as long as fighters "do not respect the neutrality and the impartiality" of aid workers.
Some 3 million Syrians are hungry, 1.2 million have been forced from their homes in Syria and 408,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
In the last 24 hours alone, Syria's civil war drove 11,000 people to flee to neighboring countries, including 9,000 refugees who went to Turkey, officials said. Another 1,000 each went to Jordan and Lebanon.
"I'm afraid that the news we have to report on the humanitarian front was still very sad," said Panos Moumtzis, the U.N.'s refugee agency regional coordinator. "This indicates a lack of any political solution to the crisis."
Activists say the civil war has killed more than 36,000 people since an uprising begin in March 2011 against President Bashar Assad's regime.