Syrians wait in line to buy bread
Syrians wait in line to buy breadReuters

In its biggest aid appeal to date, the United Nations on Wednesday asked for $1.5 billion to assist the millions of Syrian people caught in the throws of the ongoing civil war.

Speaking at the launch of the appeal in Geneva, Radhouane Nouicer, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, said the situation has become increasingly brutal and indiscriminate, engulfing more and more area within the country and displacing entire populations of the villages and cities that have turned into battlegrounds between pro-Assad forces and rebel fighters.

“The violence in Syria is raging and there are nearly no more safe areas where people flee to and find safety, as most parts of the country have now become engulfed in violence, including the capital, Damascus,” said Nouicer.  “The magnitude of this humanitarian crisis is indisputable."

The U.N. claims the number of people inside Syria who are in need of assistance has quadrupled between March and December of this year, rising from one million to four million. More than $519 million of the aid money would be used for those inside Syria, whose main needs, as outlined in the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan, include food assistance, shelter, water and sanitation, nutrition and emergency medical services and a host of other resources. 

The majority of the money, $1 billion, would be allocated to the Syria Regional Response Plan, to aid refugees fleeing Syria to Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt. This number is based on current estimates which indicate that up to one million Syrian refugees will need help within the next six months. According to the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are currently 525,000 Syrians that have either registered as refugees in neighbouring countries or are being assisted – a seven-fold increase since May.

“We are especially focusing on life-saving interventions and aiming to help people who have become displaced, host families and communities, and the poor suffering from the multiple effects of the current events,” Nouicer said.

The U.N. is appealing to international governments, businesses and private individuals in their urgent request for money. “Unless these funds come quickly, we will not be able to fully respond to the life-saving needs of civilians who flee Syria every hour of the day – many in a truly desperate condition,” said  Panos Moumtzis, UNHCR’s Regional Coordinator for Syrian Refugees

Adding to the urgency, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, reported to the Security Council Wednesday that the conflict, now in its 22nd month, has "escalated dangerously" and warned of the repercussions of inaction. “As we have repeatedly underlined, the military approach pursued by both sides comes at a devastating cost in terms of human lives and destruction, and breeds a serious risk of sectarian and communal strife, radicalization and terrorism. If nothing is done to change the current dynamic, and to move toward a political solution, the destruction of Syria, will be the likely outcome,” he said.