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UN says still seeking $8.6bn for 2013 emergency aid


The United Nations said Wednesday it was still seeking $8.6 billion of the record $12.9 billion it needs to help 73 million people engulfed in crises around the world this year.

"Millions of people remain in desperate need of help," UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told reporters in Geneva, providing an overview of the situation halfway through the year.

In December last year, her agency appealed for $8.5 billion for emergency aid to 57 million people in 2013, but the ever-expanding crisis in Syria especially has forced it to raise its appeal to nearly $13 billion (10 billion euros) as the number of people in need has reached 73 million.

"Halfway through the year, I'm very pleased to note that donors have provided $5.1 billion so far," covering just 40 percent of the needs, Amos said.

Amos noted that the amount raised would have been impressive in a normal year -- her agency had raised just $6.0 billion for all of 2012.

"But this is an extraordinary year, and extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary measures," Amos said, noting that her agency still needs to raise $8.6 billion by the end of the 2013.

"I have no idea how to do it," she acknowledged.

More than 100,000 people are believed to have perished so far in the Syrian conflict, which began in March 2011, while nearly 1.8 million Syrians are registered as refugees in neighbouring countries.

Yet aid needs for Syrian refugees and for people remaining in the war-torn country have so far only been around 35 percent funded, the United Nations revealed.

"The Syria crisis is on the brink of becoming a regional war, and if that's what's going to happen, the humanitarian implications are going to be horrendous," Carsten Voelz of Oxfam International told reporters at a separate press conference.

The humanitarian situation has worsened in other countries as well, such as the Central African Republic and Mali, while funding plans have been revised to reflect better-than-expected situations in places such as Kenya, Mauritania and South Sudan, Amos said.

Aid organisations regularly lament that funding can be skewed in favour of headline-grabbing crises and fail to offer long-term solutions to enduring problems.

"The planning horizons and concept of humanitarian assistance is short term," said Judith Randel, director of Development Initiatives, a British-based organisation which tracks aid spending.