Kuwait yesterday pledged US$500 million and the US promised US$380 million to alleviate the suffering of Syrians affected by the country’s civil war at the start of an international fundraising conference in the Gulf nation that international aid officials hope will generate billions of dollars needed this year.
The UN is appealing for US$6.5 billion this year to help Syrians affected the war, its largest-ever funding request for a single crisis. Officials do not expect to raise the entire amount in Kuwait, but do hope the event focuses greater international attention on the conflict, now in its third year.
“The fighting has set Syria back by years, even decades,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the start of the event at the Bayan Palace in the Kuwaiti capital.
It was vital that the “burden is shared” in helping meet Syria’s growing humanitarian needs, Ban said.
Kuwait’s emir, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, opened the conference by pledging US$500 million, significantly topping the OPEC member nation’s pledge of US$300 million last year.
He urged the UN Security Council to exert greater effort in bringing an end to the crisis.
“I call on Security Council and member states to put aside their differences to reach a solution,” he said. “The Security Council should assume its historical responsibility.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry said the US contribution of US$380 million will bring brings Washington’s humanitarian aid contribution to Syrian victims to US$1.7 billion since the war began.
Half of the money — US$177 million — will go to UN programs for victims still in Syria. The rest is for neighboring nations that have taken in an estimated 2.3 million refugees who have fled the country.
“We are under no illusion that our job, or any of our jobs here, are to just write a check,” said Kerry, blaming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for starving his people and blocking international aid workers from providing aid in some of Syria’s hardest-hit areas. “The international community must use every tool at our disposal to draw the world’s attention to these offenses. They are not just offenses against conscience. They also are offenses against the laws of war.”