UN launches 'biggest ever' humanitarian appeal over Syria

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UN launches 'biggest ever' humanitarian appeal over Syria

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The plight of refugees caught up in Syria’s civil war has prompted the United Nations to launch what it describes as the biggest emergency appeal in history.

The UN says five billion US dollars – over 3.75 billion euros – is needed.

But humanitarian agencies making the appeal in Geneva were keen to put the amount into perspective.

“It represents what the Americans spend on ice-creams in 32 days. It represents what German drivers spend on petrol in six weeks,” said António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “I don’t recall any bailout of any average dimension bank in the western world that has not cost five, six, seven or 10 times more.”

The amount demanded far exceeds previous appeals for disasters such as the Haiti earthquake or the Indian Ocean tsunami.

The UN says half of all Syrians will need help by the end of the year, be they refugees or still at home.

Money is needed to build and maintain refugee camps – one in Jordan has become the country’s fifth largest city – and also to provide food, shelter, and medical and water supplies.