U.N., NGOs to plea for more Syria aid

There is an estimated number of four million Syrian children who are in need of humanitarian aid

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As 2013 comes to an end, U.N. agencies and other NGOs will start campaigning on Monday for more funding to aid people inside Syria and refugees displaced in neighboring countries.

“At 12 GMT Monday, we will launch a new appeal in Geneva; it will be the biggest ever. All U.N. and NGOs working for the Syrian people will be pleading for more funding,” Juliette Touma, spokeswoman for the United Nations Children’s Fund on Syria, told Al Arabiya News.

The campaign comes after the agencies’ funding for 2013 is exhausted.

“We are back to square zero... all the funds for 2013 have been used,” said Touma, who described UNICEF as currently enduring “one of its biggest humanitarian campaigns in its history.”

Further humanitarian assistance to Syrian children will include vaccinations and winter supplies, according to the spokeswoman.

“Inside Syria there is an estimated number of four million children who are in need of humanitarian assistance. The aid needed includes vaccinations for polio and other diseases, winter supplies to protect children from the harsh cold weather, access to education, access to clean water and recreational activities,” Touma told Al Arabiya News.

Due to the extreme cold weather, the Syrian Network for Human Rights reported on Friday that it has documented the death of nine Syrian children, including newborn infants.

UNICEF, meanwhile, will be sending one air cargo from Iraq - part of the United Nations’ 23 rotations - over the next 10 days to Syria.

On Sunday, the U.N. World Food Programme sent its first delivery of humanitarian aid by air from Erbil in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region and made a one-hour flight to Hassakeh in north east Syria.

Both the Syrian and Iraqi governments authorized the passage of humanitarian supplies between the two countries.

The first U.N. aid flight landed in Hassakeh with badly needed supplies, after a winter storm sweeping the Middle East delayed it for several days.

The Hassakeh governorate in northeast Syria is considered a priority for U.N. agencies.

“Hassakeh was chosen because WFP couldn’t reach the area since May,” Abeer Etefa, WFP’s senior spokeswoman told Al Arabiya News.

Etefa cited “closed roads, violence and insecurity” as challenges in reaching Hassakeh in comparison to other areas in Syria.

“Our food assistance is reaching displaced families in 13 governorates in Syria, except for Hassakeh, which we have not been able to reach consistently for over five months now due to insecurity on the roads,” said Matthew Hollingworth, WFP’s Country Director in Syria.

“We cannot leave these victims of war hungry in one of the harshest winter months of the year in Syria,” he added.

WFP is planning to send a total of some 400 tonnes of aid “to move enough food to feed over 30,000 people for one month,” a U.N. statement said.

Meanwhile, U.N. refugee agency UNHCR will send 300 tonnes of relief items “intended to help some 60,000 displaced people,” the statement added.

In November, WFP has served about 3.5 million people in Syria.

“Our aim for 2013 was to serve five million people a month, inside and outside Syria,” said Etefa.

But for 2014, WFP’s target will include two more million people.

“We aim to feed 7 million people per month at $2 billion cost,” she added.

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