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UN seeking $16.4 billion for ‘unprecedented’ refugee crises

Syrian Kurdish refugee children from the Kobani area hold hands last month at a camp in Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border. (Associated Press)
Syrian Kurdish refugee children from the Kobani area hold hands last month at a camp in Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border. (Associated Press)
Carol J. Williams Los Angeles Times

Armed conflicts driving millions to flee their homes have intensified over the last year and created an “unprecedented” refugee crisis that will require $16.4 billion to address next year, United Nations aid agencies warned Monday.

The humanitarian disaster in Syria continued to escalate this year, leaving the U.N. World Food Program with a $64 million shortfall that forced it to suspend a rationing program last week for 1.7 million of the displaced living in neighboring countries.

Syria, South Sudan, Iraq and the Central African Republic, all consumed by intractable battles, account for 70 percent of the relief demands placed on the international community, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in launching its appeal for 2015.

This year also saw new demands on the U.N. refugee agency from half a million Ukrainians forced to flee their homes as Russia-backed separatists fought government troops in a battle for territory in the troubled country’s eastern regions.

“The rising scale of need is outpacing our capacity to respond,” Valerie Amos, U.N. undersecretary for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, said at a news conference in Geneva.

Worldwide, about 102 million people are in need of aid, with 57.5 million of them considered especially at risk in 22 countries, Amos said.

“Over 80 percent of those we intend to help are in countries mired in conflict where brutality and violence have had a devastating impact on their lives,” she said.

In addition to the most pressing aid needs, the appeal for funds covers planned relief for Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, the occupied Palestinian territories, Somalia and Yemen, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reported.

“This is not business as usual in the humanitarian world,” said Antonio Guterres, the refugee agency commissioner. “Today’s needs are at unprecedented levels, and without more support there simply is no way to respond to the humanitarian situations we’re seeing in region after region and in conflict after conflict.”

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