Countries pledge over $1.5bn to aid Syrians

Donor countries have pledged over $1.5bn (€1.1bn) to aid Syrians stricken by civil war, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said after warning that the conflict had wrought a catastrophic humanitarian crisis.

Donor countries have pledged over $1.5bn (€1.1bn) to aid Syrians stricken by civil war, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said after warning that the conflict had wrought a catastrophic humanitarian crisis.

In a pointed message for Syria’s leader, Ban told a fundraising conference that President Bashar al-Assad bore primary responsibility to stop his country’s suffering after nearly two years of conflict that have cost an estimated 60,000 lives.

“Every day Syrians face unrelenting horrors,” Ban told the gathering in Kuwait, adding that these included sexual violence and arbitrary killings. Sixty-five people were shot dead execution-style in Aleppo on Tuesday, activists said.

“We cannot go on like this... He should listen to the voices and cries of so many people,” Ban said.

“I appeal to all sides and particularly the Syrian government to stop the killing... in the name of humanity, stop the killing, stop the violence.”

Ban said the one-day conference had exceeded the target of $1.5bn in pledges. About $1bn is earmarked for Syria’s neighbours hosting refugees and $500m for humanitarian aid to Syrians displaced inside the country.

The $500m would be channelled through UN partner agencies in Syria. The entire aid pledge would cover six months, Ban said.

In the Syrian capital Damascus, the thud of artillery drowned out any optimism on the streets.

“Where’s the money going to go to? How does anyone know where it’s going? It all seems like talk,” said Faten, a grandmother.

Another woman said the money would not make it to Syrians. “Tomorrow all that money will get stolen. (The middlemen) steal everything. If they could steal people’s souls, they would. I wouldn’t count on the money,” she said.

The oil-rich Gulf Arab states of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates each promised $300m at the meeting.

Relief groups say converting promises into hard cash can take time, and one said aid now reaching Syria was not being distributed fairly, with almost all of it going to government-controlled areas.

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