UN to call for $10bn aid for Syrians at virtual donor meeting

Photo: EPA Syrian refugees in Athens protest the Greek government's decision in May to evict them from homes rented by non-government organisations.

Governments are set to pledge billions of dollars in aid for Syrians at a virtual conference on Tuesday to help refugees enduring Syria's ninth year of armed conflict, as the coronavirus and high food prices worsen the plight of millions. European Union leads meeting of 60 governments, NGOs as UN seeks billions for Syrians and countries hosting refugees.

This year, the United Nations is looking for almost $10bn for people in Syria and surrounding countries. It hopes much of that will come from the 60 governments and non-governmental agencies gathering by video link on Tuesday from 08:00 GMT. The European Union is hosting the event.

The pledging, now an annual event, breaks down into a UN appeal of $3.8bn for aid inside Syria and $6.04bn for countries hosting refugees. Only a fraction has been raised so far.

In a report last week, the EU said in 2019 donors contributed $10bn in grants to Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

"The needs have never been greater," said Corinne Fleischer at the World Food Programme, a UN agency.

In Syria, more than 11 million people need aid and protection, the UN says, while 6.6 million have fled to neighbouring countries in the world's largest refugee crisis.

Many Syrians face unprecedented hunger, with more than 9.3 million people lacking adequate food, while the country's coronavirus outbreak could accelerate, the UN has said.

The combination of an economic slump and coronavirus lockdown measures have pushed food prices more than 200 percent higher in less than a year, according to the World Food Programme.

"The COVID-19 crisis has had an immediate and devastating impact on livelihoods of millions of Syrian refugees and their hosts in the region," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement.

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