Updated: Fri, 13 Jul 2012 21:59:53 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Syrian humanitarian aid groups running out of funds

Syrian humanitarian aid groups running out of funds

The United Nations and its partners in Syria have stepped up their humanitarian operation and expect to provide food to 850,000 people this month compared to 200,000 people in April — but they are running out of money.

The UN has appealed for $189 million for humanitarian needs inside Syria and $193 million for Syrian refugees who have fled the 16-month conflict that has left thousands dead.

John Ging, the operations director for the UN humanitarian office, told reporters Friday that there are a limited number of donors to the UN humanitarian appeals for Syria, which are only 20 per cent funded.

"That means they are 80 per cent short," he said.

Ging said he hopes a major meeting on Syria's humanitarian plight on Monday in Geneva will lead to pledges from a broader base of donors.

Without additional funds, a senior UN humanitarian official said, people will die and the suffering will accelerate.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the meeting, said the principal donors at present are the United States, the European Commission, Australia, Germany, Japan and Britain as well as the Netherlands, Switzerland and Canada.

Ging said the 4th Syrian Humanitarian Forum in Geneva is taking place as the humanitarian situation inside Syria continues to deteriorate.

"We have used the terminology 'appalling,' 'desperate' and 'deplorable,"' he said. "We have run out of language to describe how it is for the civilian population. It is physical and it is psychological. Humanitarian agencies have been working very hard to scale up the level of humanitarian assistance over the last number of months."

The senior official said that despite the escalating violence, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs has been able to step up its operations in Syria with the help of its partners, primarily the Syrian Red Crescent, which has seen five of its staffers killed.

The UN is getting food to conflict areas but not at the same scale or as regularly as areas with less violence, the official said.

While the UN and its partners have significantly expanded the number of people receiving food, the official stressed that not everyone who needs assistance is receiving it, and without additional money it will be impossible to expand food aid and other humanitarian assistance.

Several months ago, the UN estimated that one million Syrians are affected by the conflict, but the official said that number is growing.

The United Nations is also very concerned that Syria's wheat harvest this year is likely to be just two million metric tons, far below the 3.6 million metric tons the market needs, the official said.

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