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June 30, 2020 10:24 am

UN Seeks Billions More Aid for Syrians Beset by War and COVID-19

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Women hold stacks of bread as they walk along an empty street, as restrictions are imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Qamishli, Syria, March 23, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Rodi Said.

The United Nations pushed governments at a virtual conference on Tuesday for nearly $10 billion in aid for Syria, where nine years of war has displaced millions in a humanitarian crisis exacerbated by soaring food prices and the coronavirus crisis.

The now annual fund-raising round for Syria brought together 60 governments and non-official agencies via video in an event hosted by the European Union (EU) and due to end at 1600 GMT.

“Syrian men, women and children have experienced injury, displacement, destruction, terror … on a massive scale,” said UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen.

“The danger of COVID-19 remains acute.”

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‘Must end suffering’

The UN, which last year raised $7 billion, said this year it needs $3.8 billion for aid inside Syria where 11 million people require help and protection, with more than 9.3 million of them lacking adequate food.

Another $6.04 billion is sought to help the 6.6 million Syrians who have fled in the world’s biggest refugee crisis.

Adding to Syrians’ hardship, an economic slump and COVID-19 lockdown have pushed food prices more than 200 percent higher in less than a year, according to the World Food Program (WFP).

However, rebuilding destroyed cities will take billions of dollars more and cannot start until powers involved back a peaceful transition away from the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, the EU says.

“We must do more to end the suffering of the Syrian people. First and foremost, we need a political solution to the crisis,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borell told the conference.

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